Sesame Street has introduced their first character with autism to help children understand what it can be like
Beloved children's TV show Sesame Street has always led the way in teaching children to be good, kind human beings.
Covering everything from encouraging an active imagination to racism, they have taught children across the world all about how to be respectful and understanding of others.
And now they have taken it one step further, introducing their first autistic character, Julia.
New characters Julia has autism (Credit: YouTube/ Sesame Street)
The Sesame Street characters introduced Julia in her debut episode yesterday, explaining a bit about what autism can mean - but stressing that it is different for every single person.
Big Bird feels upset and thinks that Julia doesn't like him, but Elmo and Abby Cadabby reassure him that she just does things a little differently, "in a Julia sort of way."
Later on, Julia became so excited by a game of tag that she started bouncing up and down with excitement - which the other characters kindly turn into a game where they all jump around.
She was also shown covering her ears and reacting badly to a loud noise, which was also explained gently and calmly.
Julia reacts badly to a loud noise and covers up her ears (Credit: CBS News)
The team created Julia in 2015 as an initiative called Sesame Workshop's Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children, which is to teach children about autism - the different ways it can affect children and teaching them not to ostracise autistic children just because they are a bit "different".
She has become so popular that she will now be introduced into the main cast, having already appeared in some videos that can be viewed on YouTube.
Sesame Street writers have decided to have the other characters immediately include Julia into their "gang", rather than leave her out as sadly some autistic children are.
CBS News went behind the scenes to see how Julia was made (Credit: CBS News)
Christine Ferraro has been a writer on Sesame Street for two years. On an episode of CBS News' 60 minutes program, Christine explained that there are many different ways that autism can present itself. She said: "It's tricky because Autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person has autism.
"There is an expression that goes, 'If you've met one person with Autism, you've met one person with Autism'."
She also described how Julia was there to teach children that when they "encounter people with disabilities in their real life, it's familiar".
Stacey Gordon, Julia's puppeteer, is the mother of an autistic child (Credit: CBS News)
Christine went on to explain that the decision to include Julia's jumping game was because "that's a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism". She also said that the other characters making it a game "was a very easy way to show that with a very slight accommodation, they can meet her where she is".
Even better, Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, is the mother of an autistic boy. She told the program: "It's important for kids without autism to see what autism can look like.
"As the parent of a child with autism, I wished that it had come out years before, when my own child was at the 'Sesame Street' age. Had my son's friends been exposed to his behaviours through something that they had seen on TV before they experienced them in the classroom, they might not have been frightened."
Julia and Abby Cadabby play with bubbles (Credit: YouTube/ Sesame Street)
Watch Julia's first episode below.
The National Autistic Society are also thrilled about Julia's character. Mark Lever, Chief Executive of the Society, said: "We're really pleased to see a popular TV show like Sesame Street introducing an autistic character. This is a significant step in improving public understanding of autism, and making people on the autism spectrum feel more accepted.
"Almost everyone has heard of autism now. But a much smaller number of people understand what it actually means to be autistic, the difficulties autistic people can face – and their strengths too.
"Some of the biggest leaps forward in understanding of autism have happened because of films, books and TV shows, like 'The A Word' and 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time'. We hope that Julia, the Sesame Street character, will have a similar effect and inspire other writers and film-makers to reflect the diversity of the autism spectrum in their work."
Here are some videos of Julia to watch with your kids.
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