Sesame Street announced a new muppet yesterday, Julia, who has autism. It's part of their See Amazing In All Children program. It has resources for parents of children with autism, including daily routine cards, social stories and Julia's story which explains to kids that although she may play differently than them, she still enjoys being friends. It's aimed at preschoolers.
I think it's great that Sesame Street is raising awareness and normalizing autism. If 2-5 year olds can accept that when a peer flaps his hands or spins in a circle, that means he's happy, then they're less likely to isolate that peer when they're all older.
I admit that I'm a little disappointed that they made Julia a girl. Although more girls are being diagnosed, most children with autism are boys. It is still more acceptable for a girl to be quirky and unusual than it is for a boy, so I think sometimes boys are hit harder by the social expectations. To see a boy behaving differently than the other boys and still being accepted would have been a powerful message.
However, I'm not going to second-guess and nitpick. The article says they spent three years putting this program together and called on a wide range of autism and childhood experts. Sesame Street does their homework and so I'll trust there are good reasons behind their choices.