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Feel Good Friday: Meet Sesame Street's first autistic character

Disney Channel's Girl Meets World tackled Autism Spectrum Disorder awareness for the teen and tween set a couple of weeks back with a special episode called "Girl Meets Farkle." In a new online storybook, Sesame Street is taking its turn helping little kids everywhere understand the disorder.

The story, titled We're Amazing, 1, 2, 3, introduces kids to Elmo's autistic friend Julia. In the story, Elmo introduces Julia to his friend Abby, and together they demonstrate and explain how Julia can sometimes act a little differently (like when she reacts to noises that don't bother others or when she takes extra time to make eye contact or respond to a question), but that, ultimately, she still just wants to play and have fun like everyone else. 

We're Amazing, 1, 2, 3, is written by Leslie Kimmerman, the mother of a son who was diagnosed with autism over 20 years ago. "[Back then] I knew nothing about autism, and it seemed that those around me—even the professionals—didn’t know much either," Kimmerman shares. "Today, happily, that has changed. There’s greater awareness, and there has been much progress understanding autism.... What’s the most important thing for people to know [about someone with autism]? We’re all different in some way or another—that’s what makes the world an interesting place."

Julia, and the We're Amazing story are just one small part of a larger initiative called "See Amazing In All Children" which aims to help families dealing with autism overcome the challenges that they face in daily life while also educating families and children all over, whether they're affected by the disorder personally or not. In an interview with People, Dr. Jeanette BetancourtSesame Street senior vice president of U.S. social impact, shared, "Children with autism are five times more likely to get bullied. And with one in 68 children having autism, that's a lot of bullying. Our goal is to bring forth what all children share in common, not their differences. Children with autism share in the joy of playing and loving and being friends and being part of a group."

Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy, added, "If you're five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that hcild doesn't want to play with you. But that's not the case. We want to create greater awareness and empathy."

Are you affected by autism in your life? What do you think of Sesame Street's new autism initiative?

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by Ilana Bernstein | 2/1/2016