Sesame Street has introduced a new character who has autism with the aim of reducing the stigma associated with autistic children.
The long-running and much-loved series will welcome Julia, a young muppet with red hair, green eyes and a toy rabbit, this April. The character already exists in print and digital storybooks as part of an initiative called Sesame Street And Autism: See Amazing In All Children.
One in every 68 children in the United States is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, and Sesame Street wishes to explain the topic to a young audience.
"The big discussion right at the start was, 'How do we do this? How do we talk about autism?'" Sesame Street writer Christine Ferraro told the CBS News show 60 Minutes.
"It's tricky because autism is not one thing, because it is different for every single person who has autism."
The show worked with autism organizations to decide which characteristics Julia should have.
Ferraro said: "So that when they encounter them in their real life it’s familiar. And they see that these - these can be their friends too."
In her debut episode on April 10, Julia will demonstrate some common autism characteristics. When Big Bird is introduced to her, she ignores him.
Big Bird is confused and thinks "that maybe she didn't like me". But the other muppets tell him: "She does things just a little differently."
Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice president of US social impact, said: "We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children.
"Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we're looking at children with autism."
The popular show has been on the air for almost half a century since debuting in 1969 and features a host of famous characters including Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster.