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Piedmont families react to Sesame Street character with autism

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Sesame Street is welcoming a new pal.

Julia is described as “smiley, curious and loves to play.”

And she’s a Muppet with autism.

Julia will make her television debut in April, but is already a familiar face in digital and print books.

Piedmont families in the community see the exposure as a big opportunity.

“It’s common now to hear about autism, but you don’t see a lot of it in mainstream cartoons or movies or anything like that,” mom Caylan Martin said.

Martin’s 2-year-old son Lucas was recently diagnosed with autism. She and her husband have three other children.

“It’s good for him to recognize himself in the same manner, but for my other typical developing children, it’s different because they can see that there are other [children] like him out there,” Martin said.

Judy Smithmyer is an autism resource specialist for the Autism Society of North Carolina.

Smithmyer has an adult daughter with autism.

“I think Julia, Sesame Street will help to shape what autism really looks like, the positive side of autism,” she said.

However, Smithmyer also believes it’s important for people to relate to all of Julia’s characteristics.

She hopes that this will be a way to show people that everybody has differences.

“Julia has autism, but autism doesn’t define who she is,” Smithmyer said.

Julia will debut on Sesame Street April 10.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 68 school-aged children (14.6 per 1,000) have autism.