(NEW YORK) — The beloved long-running children’s program Sesame Street is rolling out new characters and resources for families in honor of Autism Awareness Month, introducing viewers to Julia’s whole family and in the words of Elmo, demonstrating how “it’s really cool that everybody’s a little bit different but same, too.” Julia, the first muppet with autism to appear on the show, made her debut on Sesame Street in 2017.This April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, the program is expanding Julia’s role and introducing her family to fans. Autism currently affects one in 59 children in the U.S. and their families.”We’re thrilled to expand Julia’s world with her parents, big brother, and her adorable dog, Rose, in our new resources,” Sherrie Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement. “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.” ABC News’ Paula Faris stopped by the set of Sesame Street and met Julia and some of the other beloved characters. When asked what he has learned from Julia, Elmo told ABC’s Good Morning America he has learned that everybody “is a little bit different.””Julia has autism,” Elmo said. “And that makes Julia different … But it’s really cool that everybody’s a little bit different but same, too. And Elmo and Julia have a lot in common, and we have a lot of fun together.”Julia’s family, the newest additions to the Sesame Street cast, include her art teacher mother, saxophone playing dad, protective older brother and pet dog.Julia’s brother, Sam, told GMA if there is one thing he wants people to know about his sister it’s that “it may take a few tries to get to know Julia.” “But just because she doesn’t respond — doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be friends,” he added. Jeanette Betancourt, the senior vice president for U.S. Social Impact at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization associated with Sesame Street, said she hopes that meeting Julia’s family can help other families with autism.”We know families that have children on the spectrum, they face unique challenges. But more importantly, there’s so much they share,” Betancourt told GMA.Along with introducing Julia’s family to audiences, Sesame Workshop also released new videos and materials to help families of children with autism, on their website. The resources especially focus on how to deal with bullying, which can disproportionately affect children with autism, according to the organization.
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