Do not let kids with special needs feel left out

Sesame Street is a popular and well-received children's show in Singapore and around the world. Aired on Okto and previously on Kids Central, Sesame Street will soon have a new character, Julia.

Though Julia will be present only in digital and printed storybooks, instead of on our television screens, I look forward to welcoming her.

Julia is not just any ordinary girl, she is autistic. Sesame Workshop, the organisation behind Sesame Street, says she is part of an initiative to take the stigma away from the disorder.

This will help to create more awareness among Singaporeans, too.

Autism is a common disorder. We may not have friends who are autistic but that does not mean there are no autistic children.

It is extremely important to create awareness among the public about their condition. They should not be regarded as people different from us, or abnormal. Many autistic people are gifted in many fields.

The introduction of Julia can be taken as the first step in not letting autistic children feel left out in society.

Some attend special schools, while others attend mainstream schools. In mainstream schools, they may feel that they are different from others just because they have some difficulties in interacting or expressing themselves.

This should not be the way. We should be creating a world where all children are able to play and work together, regardless of differences.

Children of the same generation or age group must not have the impression that autistic children are weird. For them not to have such an impression, the key is to stop the stigma from spreading and influencing the future generation.

Besides autism, there is another area that companies and children's shows can take into consideration.

Down syndrome is a common disorder, too. It is great that Sesame Workshop has taken the initiative to counter the stigma of autism.

Children are the best target audience because they are still young and their impression of people can change easily.

Those who suffer from Down syndrome should not be neglected or regarded as different.

Jong Ching Yee (Miss)