Sesame Street raises autism awareness by adding new autistic character

Sesame Street adds Julia to their cast in order to raise awareness for autism

Courtesy of aljazeera.com

Sesame Street adds Julia to their cast in order to raise awareness for autism

Jenna Simons, Eastside Staff

Sesame Street is a very familiar show to people of all ages. Children grow up learning their ABCs, counting, and singing along with characters such as Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird. Sesame Street also teaches children important life lessons, which is why they recently added an autistic character, Julia, to their cast.

Julia is part of the “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children” campaign. Julia is part of the online storybook, “We’re Amazing, 1, 2, 3!” She portrays characteristics that many autistic children have, such as repeating the same thing, using fewer words, taking longer to respond and flapping her hands.

The campaign was designed with help from parents who have autistic children and people who have autism. Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization, also aided in the creation of the program.

“While children with autism may have many challenges, they all need and want love, friendship and support, just like all kids,” said Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.

In America, 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, and those diagnosed are five times more likely to be bullied.

“The autism community is part of everyone’s community. They are our friends, our family and our neighbors,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.

The campaign wants to show children that autistic children are not so different from them simply because they have the label “autistic.”

“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,” said Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of community and family engagement at Sesame Workshop, in an interview with People Magazine.

There is a Twitter hashtag, #SeeAmazing, which people can use to get involved and stay connected to see other people’s stories, as well as see reactions to the campaign.

Click here http://autism.sesamestreet.org to watch videos of kids who battle autism and to learn more about autism.

One video shows a day in the life of a four-year-old autistic boy, Nasaiah. The video shows him doing things every kid loves to do, like going to the playground. Nasaiah faces an obstacle when he wants to play with other kids, but is unsure how to approach them. Once his mother helps him introduce himself, Nasaiah plays with the other kids with ease.

“Sometimes it’s easier to play than talk. After all, everyone loves to play chase,” said Abby, a Sesame Street character.

The video ends with Nasaiah singing the alphabet along with Abby, just like kids, autistic or not, all over America do when watching their favorite show, Sesame Street.