Sesame Street Introduces a New Muppet - With Autism

Meet Julia - the newest muppet who is changing the way people think about autism.


(Ritu Manoj Jethani /

More than 40 years after its inception, Sesame Street is still combining education and entertainment to teach young children fundamental skills, as well as the ideals of love, family and friendship. Now, the beloved muppets who have helped children “grow stronger, smarter and kinder” over the years are welcoming a new addition to their family – Julia, a character with autism.

The addition is part of the Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative, which aims to celebrate the uniqueness of every child and foster an affirming narrative around autism. In an interview with People, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, a Sesame Workshop advisor for Community and Family Engagement, said, “Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group."

Aimed at children ages 2 to 5, the initiative includes a free app that incorporates video, digital story cards, and storybook materials for providers, organizations and caregivers. Sherrie Westin, the Vice President of Global Impact at Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, explains to People the reasoning behind Julia’s digital existence:  "Families with autistic children tend to gravitate toward digital content...we want parents and children to understand that autism isn't an uncomfortable topic.  

Julia displays many of the autism characteristics. In one scene of the online storybook, Elmo introduces Julia to another friend, Abby. But Julia doesn’t respond to Abby and Abby thinks Julia doesn’t like her. Elmo explains that Julia has autism: "she does things a little differently. Sometimes Elmo talks to Julia using fewer words and says the same things a few times."

Above all, the makers of Sesame Street hope that Julia will help tackle the prevailing stigma and isolation that many children on the autism spectrum face daily. As Dr. Bettencourt said, “We are trying to spread the story about the theory behind this whole thing – love and acceptance. Everyone is touched by autism, and by creating Julia, Sesame is bringing children together."

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