Oscar, Elmo, and Big Bird have a new friend on Sesame Street: Julia, an orange-haired Muppet with autism. The new character is part of an initiative launched Wednesday, “See Amazing in All Children,” that attempts to help other children understand their autistic peers.
The new program featuring Julia will live online and on a free, downloadable app that includes video and other interactive elements. “Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally,” Sherrie Westin, the executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the program, told People. “We want parents and children to understand that autism isn’t an uncomfortable topic.”
In the digital storybook, Elmo and Julia play together, and Elmo shows his friends how to play with Julia as well. When the Muppets go into a store to buy snacks, Julia places her hands over her ears. “Julia has really good ears,” Elmo explains, according to CNN. “Sometimes she hears noises that Elmo doesn’t notice. Like the noise the blender makes. She really doesn’t like it!”
Across the U.S., one in every 68 children is diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”We are trying to spread the story about the theory behind this whole thing—love and acceptance,” Sesame Street Workshop’s senior vice president of U.S. social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, told People. “Everyone is touched by autism, and by creating Julia, Sesame is bringing children together.”
In 2013, Sesame Street introduced a similar online role for a new blue-haired muppet named Alex, whose father was incarcerated.