UT professors weigh in on new Sesame Street character with autism

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For the first time in ten years, "Sesame Street" introduced a new Muppet on the air. Her name is Julia. She likes to paint and pick flowers. She also has autism.

You might recognize Hunter Thomas from the sidelines at the Lady Vols basketball games. He was their manager this past season.

Thomas has autism. Local 8 News anchor Lauren Davis asked him about "Sesame Street's" new Muppet.

"I think it's great," Thomas said.

Julia started last year as a character in "Sesame Street's" books and digital platforms. It was part of the campaign "See Amazing in all Children" created to give kids with autism and their families someone to identify with.

"I think the character Julia is fantastic," said Tom Beeson, who oversees the future program at the University of Tennessee. He works with Hunter and other students with intellectual disabilities.

"Topics I would hope to see explored are problems with communication or problems with socialization that kids with autism sometimes have," Beeson said.

The surfacing of a new permanent "Sesame Street" character is rare, but Beeson said he thinks it can be very helpful.

"The character will be able to educate not just parents about kids, but also kids about kids," he said.

The first episode of Sesame Street with Julia was set to debut on April 10. The show's creators said they hope Julia will help children better understand playmates who have autism.