Sesame Street introduced its newest friend of Elmo, Big Bird, and the group on Wednesday. Meet Julia, a bright-eyed and cheerful little girl with autism, who is leading the Sesame Street and Autism: See All in Amazing Children initiative, which hopes to spread awareness about autism for parents and their children.
The program is available as an app and on desktop, and it includes plenty of information in daily routine cards and various other resources to help families and friends understand children with the mental condition. The show’s non-profit organization, Sesame Workshop, partnered with 14 other organizations, including Yale Child Study Center and Autism Speaks, on the initiative.
In the digital storybook that features the new character, Elmo guides the viewer in coming to terms with the disorder, telling his friend Abby Cadabby that Julia plays differently than them. As he explains the disorder to Abby, he helps her understand that Julia is just like them, but simply has a few specific preferences
“Elmo’s daddy told Elmo that Julia has autism,” says Elmo. “So she does things a little differently. Sometimes Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same thing a few times.”
Later, when the group goes out for a snack, Julia places her hands over her ears when she enters Hooper’s store.
“What’s the matter?” asks Abby.
“Julia has really good ears,” explains Elmo. “Sometimes she hears noises that Elmo doesn’t notice. Like the noise the blender makes. She really doesn’t like it!”
One in 68 U.S. children has an autism spectrum disorder (otherwise known as ASD), according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In a 2014 report by the CDC, they estimate that 1 in 42 boys have the disorder, while it only affects 1 in 180 girls.
The website also tells the story of another new character named Benny, as well as the real life stories of Nasaiah and Thomas. The show has begun a campaign on social media with “#SeeAmazing” to encourage families to share their stories, videos, and pictures, to keep the conversation and network of support going.