Meet Julia, the newest character to join Elmo, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and friends on Sesame Street.
The adorable red headed muppet is the educational franchise's first digital character with Autism, and was introduced to the crew on Wednesday as part of the launch of the show's new online initiative, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in all Children - an initiative aimed to reduce “the stigma of autism”.
The digital program, available both as an app and on desktop, includes daily routine cards and resources to help family, friends and communities who interact with children with autism.
Julia’s best friend is Elmo, and in the digital storybook (We’re amazing, 1, 2, 3) Elmo helps his friend Abby Cadabby understand that Julia likes to play and interact a little differently.
Elmo explains to Abby, who initially thought Julia didn’t like her, that Julia has “really good ears” so when she covers them at the sound of a noisy blender, Abby understands.
"Elmo's daddy told Elmo that Julia has autism," he says.
"So she does things a little differently. Sometimes Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same thing a few times
“Oh, and sometimes Elmo waits a long time for Julia to answer”.
Talking to People.com, senior vice president of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt said: "When we explain from a child's point of view that there are certain behaviours, such as slapping their hands or making noises, to express excitement or unhappiness, it helps younger children to understand how to interact with their autistic peers. It makes children more comfortable and therefor more inclusive.
“We are trying to spread the story about the theory behind this whole thing – love and acceptance.
"Everyone is touched by autism, and by creating Julia, Sesame is bringing children together."
Sesame Street has also launched the hashtag #SeeAmazing online to promote awareness.