Sesame Street has just debuted its first autistic character, Julia, in order to raise greater awareness, acceptance and empathy regarding this condition.
This step was taken in an effort to fight against the stigma and isolation associated with autism, and to stimulate conversation about what tends to be perceived as an “uncomfortable” topic nowadays.
It is actually part of a larger campaign, conducted in collaboration with Autism Speaks, and entitled “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All children”.
The purpose of this initiative is also to assist parents in dealing more easily with the challenges which arise at times, when raising a kid who is affected by autism.
According to representatives of the Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind the production of the iconic TV program, the new character will be portrayed as a preschooler girl who “does things a little differently”.
The green-eyed, orange-haired puppet will be shown as part of the group, while playing with her Muppet friends, such as Abby Cadabby and Elmo.
The fact that Julia will be fully integrated among her social group, and accepted easily with all her idiosyncrasies, is meant to promote further inclusion of autistic kids among their peers.
“If you’re five years old and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you might think that child doesn’t want to play with you. But that’s not the case”, explained Sherrie Westin, vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop.
For now, Julia will be prominently featured in a Sesame Street digital storybook, called “We’re amazing 1, 2, 3”. Based on the reactions her character will stir in the autism community, Sesame Street producers will also introduce her on TV, as part of the actual educational children’s program.
The ultimate goal is to eventually make Julia part of the gang, moving the focus away from the differences associated with her autism, and showing that she’s just a special girl, who shares the same hopes, aspirations and fears as many other children her age.
This objective is actually closely linked to Sesame Street’s long-standing motto, championing diversity and tolerance: “We are all different, but the same”.
While the campaign focuses mostly on families with autistic kids aged 2 to 5, the resources it will be making available may assist a larger part of the audience.
The Sesame Workshop has even created a downloadable app which includes digital story cards meant to aid parents in completing their daily tasks more easily, when it comes to raising autistic children.
There are also other resources designed for organizations and caregivers also, with a view to improve treatment and care for this disorder which affects around 1 in 68 U.S. children.
Overall, the purpose is to shed light on how unique and extraordinary autistic children can be, and how easily they can be guided to cope with new challenges, in order to lead normal, fulfilling lives.
Image Source: Sesame Street