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Awareness campaign with Sesame Street’s Julia captures worldwide attention

Julia, the well-known muppet in the Sesame Street cartoon series, who has autism, is spreading an important message in a new campaign. The makers of Sesame Street are partnering with American NGO Autism Speaks to create awareness about early diagnoses and intervention.

In 2017 iconic cartoon series Sesame Street won kudos the world over for introducing a new character in their line up. The muppet, called Julia, is a character on the autism spectrum and her presence quickly became one that many people began looking forward to.

Julia, who is four years old, is making news once again, this time as the face of a campaign that is emphasising the importance of early intervention. The campaign, a joint collaboration between the makers of the series and well-known NGO Autism Speaks, urges parents to get their children screened early.

Called See Amazing in All Children, the campaign shows Julia engaging with other muppets in an interactive way. Parents in India like Pratima Vikram Bhinge are looking forward to seeing the campaign here too.

Pratima, who has a business venture in handmade boxes with son Kush called Little Trovebox calls this an innovative way to spread awareness.

Any initiative that promotes early screening for autism is appreciated. Early screening would mean that the child gets intervention at his early developmental stages, and that is going to open up many possibilities. Awareness about autism is increasing and there are plenty of therapies, alternate learning facilities and technology supported devices that are available to bridge the communication gap. If parents and caregivers can tap into these possible interventions at an early stage, the child can go miles ahead. -Pratima Vikram Bhinge, Parent to child with autism.

There are two advertisements with Julia promoting the cause. In the first as seen here, Julia is seen communicating with her father using a computer tablet telling him that she wants to play with her dog. The aim is to show how children with autism communicate differently. In the second ad with her friends, Julia is seen putting on noise-reducing headphones as children with autism are sensitive to loud sounds and noises. The idea is to sensitise children towards the needs of other kids on the spectrum and build inclusion.

The aim is also to make more parents aware. Though autism can be reliably diagnosed in children when they are as young as 18 months old, most children aren't diagnosed until they are between the ages of four to five. This is more so the case with children from low income group families.

The ad campaign, which is bilingual, hopes to address these gaps, helping parents to learn the signs of autism and understand the importance of early screening and diagnosis and make a meaningful difference in the lives of children with autism.

"Receiving an autism diagnosis is just the first step in creating a better future for a child on the spectrum, and there are multiple benefits to getting that early diagnosis," saidAutism Speaks President/CEO Angela Geiger in a media release. "Research shows that early intervention can have a positive impact in so many ways, and we are dedicated to helping parents learn the signs and feel empowered to help their children lead their best lives".

The new ads are already on air across the United States and have been received well. Such a campaign in India would be well received too, believe many parents.

"This is a great initiative because parents have to be aware of early intervention and diagnosis. Moreover, such characters help sensitise people, especially the younger generation. Even today, when children with autism attends public gatherings they are looked with sympathy and that is something they do not need. I believe such cartoon characters will rightly serve the purpose", says Sangeetha John, who has a daughter with autism.

Recently, the cartoon series Peppa Pig introduced a character Mandy Mouse, on a wheelchair. Such characters are a great way to introduce disability and inclusion in the lives of children.

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