Sesame Street is introducing its first character with autism.
Julia, a bright-eyed and cheerful little yellow Muppet, plays an essential role in a campaign to reduce stigma surrounding the disorder. The Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organisation behind the TV show, also hopes that Julia will "help those who are dealing with autism".
"If you're five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that child doesn't want to play with you. But that's not the case," according to Sesame Workshop's Sherrie Westin. "We want to create greater awareness and empathy."
While Julia won't appear on the main Sesame Street television show, she will feature in digital and printed storybooks as part of the See Amazing in All Children initiative.
According to Westin, "families with autistic children tend to gravitate towards digital content, which is why we created Julia digitally".
Julia will also be shown engaging, alongside characters such as Elmo, in many behaviours characteristic of autism - including slapping their hands or making noises to express excitement or unhappiness - in order to help younger children understand how to interact with their autistic peers.
Sesame Street is using #SeeAmazing to encourage people to share their stories, videos and pictures on social media to keep the conversation and network of support ongoing.