Dylan Matthews reflects on growing up with autism and reviews Sesame Street’s approach to raising awareness with a new autistic character named Julia. Sesame Street doesn’t focus on Julia navigating her world, it focuses on Elmo and Abby Cadabby — a neurotypical monster and fairy, respectively — who help Big Bird understand why Julia plays and acts the way she does. Elmo and Abby revel in Julia’s style of play and in doing so, encourage Big Bird to join the fun so that everyone can have a good time. Matthews posits that with Sesame Street’s clout among the young, and the research to back up the fact that the show “encourages prosocial, cooperative behavior among children,” Julia could have a real influence on how society embraces those with autism in the future.
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