Meet 'Sesame Street's' muppet with autism

CBS News
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There's a new kid on the street. Her name is Julia, and her story begins with an introduction to a Sesame Street muppet that has become an American institution, Big Bird.

The episode portrays characters introducing themselves to Julia. Even Big Bird is confused when Julia doesn't respond. But it's a feeling Columbus mother, Megan Griesemer, once knew all too well.

At 2-years-old, Griesemer's son, Finnegan, wasn't talking or making eye contact.

"I kind of knew something was going on. It was instinct," said Griesemer.

Doctors diagnosed Finnegan with autism. Fast forward two years and Finnegan now runs to greet his mother with a kiss and a hug.

Griesemer credits Play Project, a unique autism intervention that promotes the parent/child relationship.

The Childhood League Center in Columbus is the first licensed Play Project center in the nation. Teachers are helping young children with developmental delays connect with parents and peers by helping them engage.

The center offers pre-school classes that integrate typically developing children with children with developmental delays. CEO Ginger Young says inclusion is the bottom line.

"I mean that's really at the core of what we all want. We all want to have a friend. We want to be included," said Young. "The hardest thing for parents...my child wants to have a friend. And if they don't have friends it's really hard."

Young is encouraged that the new muppet named Julia may help kids without autism see what autism can look like.

Finnegan, who is now 4, has made remarkable progress.

"Dramatically different," said Griesemer.

The Sesame Street episode ends with the muppets, including Julia, singing "we can all be friends." It is The Childhood League Center's mission.