Meet Julia. She's small, orange, and she has autism — she's Sesame Street's newest muppet.
- Julia makes her TV debut on Sesame Street in a bid to reduce stigma surrounding autism
- In the US one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder
- The show's developers say bringing Julia to life has required years of consultation
The long-running American children's show is hoping her inclusion will help children better understand the condition.
Rather than being treated like an outsider, which often is the plight of kids on the spectrum, the muppet youngster is one of the gang.
In an upcoming scene, Julia is about to play a game with Oscar, Abby and Grover.
The muppet chums have been challenged to spot objects shaped like squares or circles or triangles.
"You're lucky," Abby says to Grover. "You have Julia on your team, and she is really good at finding shapes!"
For more than a year, Julia has existed in print and digital illustrations as the centrepiece of a multifaceted initiative by Sesame Workshop called Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.
She has been the subject of a storybook released along with videos, e-books, an app and website.
The goal is to promote a better understanding of what the Autism Speaks advocacy group describes as "a range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences".
Now Julia has been brought to life as a muppet.
She makes her TV debut on Sesame Street in the upcoming Meet Julia episode.
Years of research went into new character
Developing Julia and all the other components of this campaign has required years of consultation with organisations, experts and families within the autism community, according to Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice-president of US social impact.
"In the US one in 68 children is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder," she said.
"We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children.
"We're modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share."
It was with keen interest that puppeteer Stacey Gordon first learned of Julia more than a year ago.
"I said, 'If she's ever a puppet, I want to be Julia!'"
Ms Gordon has a son with autism and, before she started her family, was a therapist to youngsters on the spectrum.
"The Meet Julia episode is something that I wish my son's friends had been able to see when they were small," Ms Gordon said.
"I remember him having meltdowns and his classmates not understanding how to react."
In the introductory segment, Julia is having fun with Abby and Elmo when Big Bird walks up.
He wants to be her new friend, but she doesn't speak to him. He thinks she doesn't like him.
"She does things just a little differently, in a Julia sort of way," Abby informs him.
Julia, chuckling, then displays a different but fun way of playing tag and everyone joins in.