The Muppet character of Julia was introduced on Sesame Street in 2015 as part of the 'Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children' initiative. Since then, the cheerful four-year-old with autism has become popular and is now the star of a public awareness campaign from the Ad Council and Autism Speaks.
Though autism can be reliably diagnosed as early as age 18 months, most children aren’t diagnosed until between four and five years old – and studies indicate that age is even higher for low-income and minority children. The new bilingual awareness campaign featuring Julia promotes early screening and diagnosis, which can open a world of possibilities for the one-in-59 children diagnosed with autism.
In the spots, Julia is seen interacting with other Muppets in a supportive way. In one, a man asks Julia if she’d like to use a talker to help with her words and express what she wants – which is to play ball with her dog. In another, she is wearing noise-canceling earphones to make sure loud noises from playing music with friends doesn’t disturb her.
The multimedia campaign grew out of a partnership between the Ad Council, Autism Speaks and Sesame Workshop. It is designed to help parents to learn the signs of autism and understand the importance of early screening and diagnosis, ultimately making 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,” said Autism Speaks president and chief executive officer Angela Geiger. “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.”
With pro-bono support from BBDO and sister agency Dieste, the English and Spanish-language videos show Julia taking on everyday activities in her unique way.
“Early screening made a lifetime of difference for Julia and her family, and we’re thrilled to share her story with families through this campaign,” said Sherrie Westin, president of social impact and philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. “Through our ‘Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children’ initiative, Julia has shown that all children are amazing in their own ways. With the right support, every child can reach their full potential.”
The spot encourages parents to visit ScreenForAutism.org or DeteccionDeAutismo.org, where they can find resources in both English and Spanish to help identify the signs of autism, access an autism screening questionnaire, seek information from Autism Speaks’ Autism Response Team and find supports for before, during and after diagnosis.
“Innovative partnerships, like this one with Sesame Workshop and Autism Speaks, are critical to continuing the national dialogue about autism and helping parents understand the lifetime of difference early screening can make for children with autism,” said Lisa Sherman, president and chief executive of the Ad Council.