Mental health is getting major media representation as Sesame Street unveiled a new character on the autism spectrum. Julia is a shy 4-year old red-headed girl who also happens to be autistic. She is artistic, often repeats what those around her just said, and sometimes it's hard to get her attention.
When Julia made her first appearance and was introduced to the other Muppets, the show addressed Julia's differences and autism.
Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for U.S. social impact at parent company sesame workshop, has been helping develop the character of Julia for the past three years. Betancourt understands that Julia is not wholly representative of everyone with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) as ASD affects everyone differently; however, Julia is a great way to get families, educators, and children talking about and understanding ASD. Additionally, the interaction of the other Muppets and Julia is a great resource for children to model behavior of inclusion.
Julia actually made her appearance last year in Sesame Street books and in online shorts. She received positive feedback from families and children who were thrilled about having a popular character they could identify with. One parent actually wrote in that she used Julia to explain to her 5-year-old daughter that she had autism. Due to the positive responses, Sesame Street executives hope that Julia's inclusion in the main show will reach more children have a larger impact.
Julia made her television debut on Sesame Street on April 10. You can view her on PBS's multiple platforms including PBS Kids, HBO, and Youtube.
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Image courtest of Lester Balajadia / Shutterstock
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