Sesame Street introduced a new character, its first with autism. The little girl appears in a digital storybook, part of a new initiative by the ever-popular, 45-year-old show to provide information and foster compassion about autism.
The Muppets character, Julia, is a pal of Elmo's. She shares some common traits of kids with autism. With a stranger, she is slow to answer questions and to make eye contact. She flaps her arms when she's excited. She's memorized all the words to many songs. And she's very sensitive to noises and covers her ears when they become too much for her.
Julia's storybook, "We're Amazing, 1,2, 3!", is one of a numerous online resources - including several really sweet videos of real kids - that make up the "see amazing in all children initiative."
Together, they seem an excellent resource for teaching young children about the unique traits and special challenges children with autism face - and for highlighting how they are also just like typical kids. They enjoy toy cars, crayons and playground slides and need to be reminded, sometimes, about please and thank you.
The site also includes resources for parents and for adults who want to be more understanding of families they know who have children with the disability.
Julia's character isn't on the TV show yet, and it's not clear if she will be, the New York Times noted.
And that may be too bad, as typical children might not meet her, if their parents don't go online and click on "Sesame Street and autism."
Still the new site, produced with help from autism advocacy groups, seems a cool addition to the Sesame Street website, already chock full of videos, games and art projects.
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