Sesame Street has a new character. Julia, a preschooler with autism, is part of a new online initiative aimed at raising awareness
Julia is featured in an online storybook, where she plays with fellow Sesame Street characters Elmo and Abby. Here is how the conversation played out in one part of the story:
“‘Can I play?’ Abby asks Julia. ‘Can I play?’ But Julia doesn’t look at Abby. ‘Oh, and sometimes Elmo waits a long time for Julia to answer,’ Elmo adds. So Abby and Elmo wait.”
“Finally Julia says, ‘Play with Abby and Elmo.’”
The site also features a music video called The Amazing Song, which features autistic kids playing with Sesame Street characters. Sesame Workshop is using the hashtag #SeeAmazing to promote the project on social media.
Having a brand with as big a reach as Sesame Street address autism is huge, said Dr. Barry Prizant, an adjunct professor at Brown University and author of Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism.
If you want to educate kids about autism and prevent things like teasing and bullying, you don’t do it by explaining the condition to them, Dr. Prizant said. Instead, “the best way to do it is through their experience. And for very young children, Sesame Street’s a real world. It’s not this fake world.”
“Elmo is real, Big Bird’s real, and if you could have a child named Julia who happens to have autism, she’s real as well,” he said.
Besides educating the broader public, the Sesame Workshop website also offers resources, including videos and daily routine cards, to help families with autistic children.
And while Julia won’t be appearing on the TV show just yet, there is a possibility that can happen in the future, a Sesame Workshop spokesperson said.