Updated 10:27 AM EST, Thu, Dec 02, 2021

‘Sesame Street’ Introduces First Autistic Muppet Julia to ‘Destigmatize’ Autism

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"Sesame Street" has introduced its first autistic muppet in an effort to destigmatize the mental condition.

Joining fan favorites Elmo, Abby, and Grover, the new muppet, Julia, is a part of Sesame Workshop's "Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children" initiative aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding the condition, People reported.

The program is created for communities and families with children ages 2 to 5. It also comes with a free downloadable app that includes video and digital story cards intended to make daily life tasks easier for families of children who have autism, People added. Storybook materials for providers, organizations, and caregivers are also available.

"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, explained to the news outlet. "We want parents and children to understand that autism isn't an uncomfortable topic.

In the storybooks, Julia explains to her "Sesame Street" pals how she likes to play a little differently than them.

"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," Westin said, as quoted by People. "We want to create greater awareness and empathy."

Researchers have worked on the initiative for three years. Ultimately, the goal is to break the shame surrounding autism, reduce bullying, and prove to people that kids with autism aren't that different from others. "Sesame Street" is promoting awareness by widening the initiative's reach and through social media using #SeeAmazing online, the news outlet noted.

"Some people don't even know whether they're even supposed to say the word autistic," said Westin, as reported by People. "By opening up a dialogue we are trying to get rid of any discomfort or awkwardness, it's time to increase understanding."

Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact, said that kids with autism are five times more likely to get bullied, People added. One in 68 children is autistic.

She continued, "Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group."

According to Betancourt, they are "trying to spread the story about the theory behind this whole thing - love and acceptance," and with the creation of Julia, the show is "bringing children together" and touching everyone with autism, People reported.

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