Sesame Street has been around a while now. You yourself may remember watching it as a kid. But now, 46 years later, the popular children’s show has gotten a much-needed addition: a character with autism.
Julia, the newest muppet, is part of the show’s newest initiative, “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.” The initiative targets families with kids aged 2 to 5 in particular, in hopes of raising awareness and acceptance of ASD. As Dr. Jeanette Betancourt says,
Children with autism are five times more likely to get bullied. And with one in 68 children having autism, that’s a lot of bullying. Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.
This point is made in a free online storybook: “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” In it, Elmo introduces his friend, Abby to his other friend, Julia, debunking some autism myths kids might believe (“she doesn’t answer me so she doesn’t like me”), explaining some behaviors those with autism might exhibit (“Flapping is what Julia does when she’s excited”), and describing how those on the spectrum share commonalities with neurotypical children (Julia loves singing and playing “I Spy!”). Perhaps most significantly, it’s easy for kids to understand.
In addition to raising awareness, the campaign also aims to give autism and neurotypical parents a helping hand with practical advice on how to navigate daily situations that can be challenging.
While there are no current plans to turn Julia into a regular character on the show, the creation of her character is a huge milestone in autism acceptance. Hopefully as a result of her, we’ll see a decline of bullying for all ages everywhere!Whizzco