ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU)-- A new face is coming to a familiar show so many of us grew up watching. Sesame Street has announced it will be introducing Julia, a new friend to Elmo and Big Bird, a new friend, with autism.
“One in 68 children have autism, so the fact that that's going to be a regular character on Sesame Street, I think is just wonderful, both for the kids with autism, and for all the kids who are going to be included and families,” says Dr. Kristin Wegner with Altoona’s Autism and Behavior Center.
It's hard for Dr. Wegner to contain her excitement, knowing that, now, and younger group of kids will learn about autism from the show, but there's one group in particular who are even more excited to meet Julia.
“Anything to get out there that autism is not scary. My kids just want to be friends with everyone else, like any other kid would,” says mother of two Teresa Wergedal, who hopes Julia and the show will answer questions people may have surrounding autism.
“Each child with autism is different. If my son is not making eye contact with another kid, it doesn't mean that he doesn't want to play; it just means that he struggles with making eye contact. I hope that this show will tackle bullying, and just acceptance of autism, is what I’m most looking forward to with this character,” says Wergedal.
Parents say the biggest thing they hope both kids and adults get out of the show, is noticing the normalcy, not the differences.
“Kids are so much more accepting than adults. They'll grow up knowing that it's there and it won't worry them and they can treat everyone equally. Then they don't have to learn how to accept it,” says mother Karen Nyhus.
Wegner says getting more information and even signs about autism out earlier, is only beneficial.
“That early intervention makes the most sense. If they see signs, like with the character Julia echoing or flapping her hands, or not looking at somebody in the eye, or spinning in circles, it’s going to allow children and parents and teachers to be able to maybe get a better understanding, of what a person with autism looks like,” says Wegner.
Sesame Street will air the special episode "Meet Julia" Monday, April 10 on HBO and also on PBS Kids.