‘Sesame Street’ introduces its first Muppet with autism
The addition of the new character is part of an effort meant to help destigmatize autism and raise awareness of a disorder that affects one out of every 68 American children, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new YouTube program, Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, was launched recently in hopes of helping children 2 to 5 years old learn to interact with friends, who like Julia, have developmental disorders. The interactive website also contains resources for families, teachers and caregivers with instructions to create everyday activities for children with autism simpler.
In the digital storybook, “We’re Amazing, 1,2,3,” Elmo introducing Julia to his friend to Abby Cadabby on the playground. Abby seems to be confused and wonders why Julia doesn’t make eye contact with her. She assumes that Julia doesn’t like her. Then, Elmo clears the confusion by saying “Elmo’s daddy told Elmo that Julia has autism. So she does things a little differently. Sometimes Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same thing a few times.”
Dr. James Weedon, divisional director of developmental pediatrics at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., praises Sesame Street for helping spread a message of education and acceptance of children with ASD.
“I anticipate this program’s widespread reach will impact the beliefs and conceptions of many and reinforce what we already know,” says Dr. Weedon. “All children, including those on the autism spectrum, have great gifts to contribute to society, and we have so much to learn from each and every one of them.”
Autism can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges, according to experts who say that children with autism are more at risk of being bullied. This is why experts hope Julia can create compassion and understanding and help children look beyond their individual differences.
The new Muppets character is awaiting her debut on the TV show version until producers of Sesame Street get feedback from the autism community.
Photo credit: Sesame Workshop
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