Autism

Sesame Street Introduces Julia, a New Muppet With Autism

There’s a new Muppet on Sesame Street: Julia. She’s a “preschool girl with autism who does things a little differently when playing with her friends, the lovable Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Grover,” the Sesame Workshop told ABC News in 2015, when Julia made her debut—in digital form—as the face of a broad set of autism-awareness tools the Sesame Workshop had rolled out called “Sesame Street and Autism: See Amazing in All Children.” But based on her popularity online, Julia is about to become a full-fledged Muppet when she joins the rest of the gang on Sesame Street in April.

In the storybooks, Julia explains to her Sesame Street friends how she likes to play a little differently from them.

“If you’re five years old, and see another kid not making eye contact with you, you may think that child doesn’t want to play with you. But that’s not the case,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s executive vice president of global impacts and philanthropy,…

Yale Researchers Find That Autism Genes Helped Us to Become Smarter

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Those with autism face distinct challenges. These usually have to do with certain social deficits. That might be why the results of a new study appear a bit puzzling. Genes linked to autism spectrum disorders (ASD) were actually preserved through the process of evolution, Yale researchers concluded. These genes actually made us smarter.

If you find these results strange, consider the large numbers of scientists and engineers known to have Asperger’s syndrome. There are autistic savants as well, as the movie Rain Man can attest, which was based on a true story. Or perhaps you’ve seen the work of mind-blowing artist Stephen Wiltshire, who can draw panoramic scenes of whole cities with perfect detail, from his memory alone.

This was a genome-wide study, zeroing in on gene variants associated with ASD. Researchers examined 5,000 cases of autism and analyzed the genome of each participant. They focused on evolutionary gene selection, particularly on which genes were positively selected. One clue which led researchers to these findings was that, more genes associated with autism were preserved by evolution than would have been through sheer randomness.

Autistic…