In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Sesame Workshop launched new videos and materials featuring the family of Julia, a 4-year-old Sesame Street Muppet with autism, as part of its Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative. New resources, freely available in English and Spanish on sesamestreet.org/autism, bring to life Julia’s parents, big brother, and companion dog, and focus on what all families share in common while providing tools to help overcome everyday challenges. Just as all children depend on their families for support, so, too, do children with autism—which affects 1 in 59 American children today. Additional resources focused on bullying, which disproportionately affects children with autism, feature Julia as an upstander in a bullying situation, promoting kindness and empathy.
Complementing the new resources, PBS KIDS will premiere a Julia-focused Sesame Street episode on April 8. In it, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Alan help Julia feel less scared about getting a haircut by playing ‘hair salon’ and pretending to be hair stylists. The segment was created in response to a need families have expressed for materials tackling common experiences like haircuts that can pose challenges for children with autism. Additionally, on April 6, Barnes & Noble will hold storytime events in over 630 locations nationwide, featuring the Family Forever hardcover storybook just released by Random House Children’s Books.
The resources released today include:
• Original videos starring Julia and her family, including: The “I Love My Family” song, in which Julia’s mother, Elena, father, Daniel, and big brother, Samuel, join Julia and their dog, Rose, to sing a song celebrating family; “Julia’s Family Gets Ready,” in which Julia’s family gets ready to attend open mic night at Hooper’s Store, and Julia steps in to save the day; and “Starfish Hug,” in which Julia and Samuel teach Abby Cadabby a new kind of hug to help her through a tough day. The new videos bring to life Julia’s family, who was introduced last year in the Family Forever storybook.
• “Circle of Friends” Storybook: On the first day of summer camp, Julia stands up for another camper with autism who is being bullied, and the two become friends. Children with autism are five times more likely to be bullied than their neurotypical peers; Circle of Friends aims to prevent bullying by fostering empathy and compassion. This free storybook, available on major ebook platforms including school and library distributors, was funded with the support of over 1,000 backers in a Kickstarter campaign. Paperback copies will be distributed to autism partner organizations and community providers.
• “Playground Pals” digital interactive: Julia and her brother Samuel head to the playground for an afternoon of fun together. By helping children they encounter along the way, they learn about kindness and empathy.
• Articles and activities for families and service providers: New articles include tips on creating family traditions and their importance in helping children cope with challenges, strategies to help children cope with bullying, and information on how animals like Julia’s dog can enrich a child’s life and help reduce stress.
• A behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Julia’s family: See the process behind bringing Julia’s family to life as Sesame Street Muppets.
“We’re thrilled to expand Julia’s world with her parents, big brother, and her adorable dog, Rose, in our new resources” said Sherrie Westin, President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. “Children with autism often face unique challenges, as do their parents and siblings. But every family faces challenges of some sort, which is why we are focusing on what all families have in common. In a family, everyone has different roles, challenges, and strengths, and everyone can learn from one another.”
Created in 2015, the Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children initiative aims to increase public awareness of autism, foster greater empathy and understanding, and support families with free resources to help them navigate everyday moments and challenges. The initiative was developed in consultation with over 250 organizations and experts within the autism community. Since its launch, the Emmy award-winning initiative has generated more than 3.1 million page views across nearly 800,000 users, and hundreds of thousands of storybooks have been used by educators, service providers, and families.