Sesame Street is to introduce a new character with autism in a bid to “reduce the stigma” attached to the condition.
Julia, who has red hair and bright green eyes, already exists in storybooks called Sesame Street And Autism: See Amazing In All Children.
Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of US social impact, said: “In the US, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children.
“Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we’re looking at children with autism.”
“The big discussion right at the start was, ‘How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?'” Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told the CBS News show 60 Minutes.
“It’s tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism.”
Sesame Street, which has been on the air since 1969, and is broadcast in 20 countries, has long used its platform to promote positive messages.
Takalani Sesame, the South African version of Sesame Street, features Kami, a HIV-positive Muppet.
The name Kami comes from the Tswana word for “acceptance. The muppet was named Unicef’s Champion for Children in November 2003.
One character, Ronnie Trash — who sings Johnny Cash numbers — gave a pro-recycling message in a rendition of ‘Ring of Fire’, and there is also a blind muppet called Aristotle.
In 1972, the New Yorker described the show as “the most intelligent and important program on television.”
Julia will be first seen on Sesame Street on an episode to be aired in the US on April 10.
In the episode, Julia demonstrates common characteristics of autism, and when Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him.
Big Bird thinks “that maybe she didn’t like me”, but the other muppets tell him that “she does things just a little differently.”