Sesame Street is hoping to help destigmatize autism by introducing its first autistic muppet, Julia. She’s part of a new initiative called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children,” People reports.
The initiative includes a free app that uses storybooks, video and other visual media to assist autistic children and their families with daily tasks.
“Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally,” executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy, Sherrie Westin, told People. “We want parents and children to understand that autism isn’t an uncomfortable topic.”
In the storybooks, Julia explains to her friends how she plays a little differently. “If you’re five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that child doesn’t want to play with you. But that’s not the case,” says Westin. “We want to create greater awareness and empathy.”
Ultimately, the goal is to destigmatize autism, reduce bullying, and show that autistic kids aren’t really all that different.
“Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences,” says senior vice president of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt. “Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group.”