Kids Health Matters: Meet Julia!

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Sesame street has a new resident - a little girl with bright orange hair. Through her, the show that's tackled everything from reading to race is teaching America about autism. (WPVI)

Sesame street has a new resident - a little girl with bright orange hair. Through her, the show that's tackled everything from reading to race is teaching America about autism.

It's a simple game - making bubbles. But when Julia shows her friend Abby Cadabby a different way to do it, she's also telling the audience that every child is unique.

Julia is the first Sesame Street character with autism. Producers say she reflects the world of American kids.

"Today, 1 in 68 children is on the autism spectrum. We thought it was something we needed to address," said Sherrie Westin from the Sesame workshop.

Julia first appeared online in Sesame Street's "See Amazing in All Children" initiative. Now that she's also on the show, Judith Miller, of the Children's Hospital Center for Autism Research, believes it could open many doors for parents self-conscious of their autistic children.

"Sometimes when they're in public, other families may be looking at them and may be passing judgment," said Judith. "People don't necessarily believe autism has a biological cause."

And maybe for children themselves, struggling to understand why they think or behave differently.

They're going to think they're stupid or they're doing something wrong," said Judith.

Julia's character is in the middle of the spectrum - with difficulty communicating and making friends, but devoted to friends she does make.

Judith says that presents the opportunity to understand autism's challenges, and its strengths.

"Most people with autism have really memories, they have really good visual spatial skills," she said.

She believes children growing up around characters with autism and other disabilities can change future communities.

"When you're an adult, you are more likely to hire someone with a disability, you're more likely to include people with disabilities in your social group," said Judith.

And accepting others also teaches kids to accept their own differences and struggles.

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Related Topics:
healthKids Health Matterssesame streetautismhealthcheckchildren's hospital of philadelphiaWest Philadelphia
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