Sesame Street has introduced an autistic character to the show’s cast to raise awareness and promote understanding.
Julia, a four-year-old, red haired, bright-eyed muppet is “smiley, curious and loves to play” and will feature on the show next month, according to its website.
“And she has autism,” the website adds.
The character is part of the show’s initiative to raise awareness and understanding of the condition, titled Sesame Street and autism: See amazing in all children.
“We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children,” said Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of US social impact.
She added: “In the US, one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we’re looking at children with autism.”
Although she already existed in print and digital books as part of the initiative, Julia is yet to be introduced in an aired show.
On Sesame Street’s website, she can be seen in short videos alongside some of the show’s most iconic characters such as Elmo and Abby.
She is introduced as a “good singer” who “can remember all the songs” and likes to gaze at the night sky and “enjoy the magic of a starry night”.
Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969 and its most famous characters include Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster.
The show has a long tradition of showing characters with different social personalities, to teach children about tolerance and diversity.
In her first screen appearance, Julia is at first misunderstood by Big Bird, who thinks Julia ignores him on purpose.
“Maybe she doesn’t like me,” Big Bird says.
But it is later explained to them that “she just does things a little differently – in a Julia sort of way”.
Julia will be first seen on Sesame Street in the US on 10 April.