Sesame Street is adding a new character to its ranks - a muppet called Julia, who has autism. She joins a sparse collection of autistic characters on television, especially in children's programming.
"For years, families of children with autism have asked us to address the issue", Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of USA social impact at the nonprofit Sesame Workshop, said in a statement.
Julia was first introduced to the world in 2015 as part of digital storybook called "Sesame Street and Autism: See the awesome in all children", and come April, she'll have a permanent role on the long-running children's show, as first reported by Vulture. Julia's puppeteer, Stacey Gordon, also has an autistic son.
"I think the character Julia is fantastic", said Tom Beeson, who oversees the future program at the University of Tennessee.
On 10 April, Julia-who is already included in digital and printed storybooks- will make her debut on the show that made the Elmo and The Cookie Monster household names.
"It's so much like her - the way she moves, the way she communicates, the challenges she has", her mother, Erika, said. And the kids react well, but joining Julia and jumping up and down also.
"The "Meet Julia" episode is something that I wish my son's friends had been able to see when they were small", Ms. Gordon told the Associated Press. "They would have known that he plays in a different way and that that's okay", she added.
There's a new muppet on the block, and 123 Sesame Street has never seen anyone quite like her. And in many ways, Julia is just like all the other little Muppets.
"More than 20 years ago, my attractive son received the diagnosis of autism, and my world changed instantly and profoundly", Kimmelman said in a statement.
"I would love her to be not Julia, the kid on Sesame Street who has autism", longtime Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro said.
Julia first appeared in a digital storybook in 2015, called "We're incredible, 1,2,3". She ignores Big Bird when he tries to talk to her.
She hopes Julia will help other kids to understand that people with autism sometimes act and play differently.
Sesame Street worked with 250 autism organizations and experts, including Autism Speaks, as well as its own regular child psychologists to develop Julia.