Sesame Street‘s much loved characters have a brand new playmate in the form of Julia, the show’s first ever autistic cast member.
First seen on Wednesday morning (Thursday AEDT), introducing Julia aims to lower the stigma of autism, the website says.
It is part of the new Sesame Street Workshop and Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children programs.
Both schemes aim to boost the charitable and social welfare efforts of the iconic show for America’s children.
The autism initiative includes a free downloadable app for children aged two to five, along with video, story cards, and exercises for families with autistic children, to make life easier.
“Children with autism are five times more likely to get bullied,” senior vice president of US social impact, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, told PEOPLE.
“And with one in 68 children having autism, that’s a lot of bullying. 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.”
Sesame Street said the program wants to highlight the similarities between kids with autism and those without, instead of the differences.
Researchers worked for three years to develop the initiative and hope it will ultimately bring people together.