Given the sharp rise of children being diagnosed with autism in the United States (currently 1 out of every 68 children has autism), chances are your child’s class includes one if not more children who are on the spectrum. With a recently released initiative to raise awareness and acceptance about autism, Sesame Street has introduced a new character who has autism, a young girl Muppet named Julia. This new character has a two-fold purpose: to introduce all children to someone with autism as well as to help children with autism identify with and connect with a Muppet character. Of course, Sesame Street accomplishes this with its typical, inclusive, thoughtful, and age-appropriate methods using storytelling and song.
Julia’s story is told through an online audiobook that describes a playdate with Abby and Elmo. As Elmo has been friends with Julia for a long time, he explains to Abby how Julia sometimes speaks and acts differently, but how she still loves to do many of the same activities. While we hope Julia becomes a more regular member of the Sesame Street cast, her story is just one of numerous parts of the new initiative, known as “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.”
The new effort also includes resources for parents and family members of children with autism as well as additional video clips and stories of children with autism. Another fun feature on the site is a short animated film called “Benny’s Story” that was created in conjunction with children with autism and which explains some of the more common behaviors associated with autism alongside the message that all kids want to have fun. Sesame Street also released “The Amazing Song” which celebrates children with autism and truly everyone’s differences. Sesame Street’s powerful themes of love and acceptance are perfectly suited to preparing the next generation of kids to be open-minded, aware, and caring.
Images © MaryBeth Nelson/Sesame Workshop