A Muppet with autism is to join the cast of long-running children's TV series Sesame Street.

Julia, a young muppet with red hair and bright green eyes is joining the cast of the 48 year-old show to help raise awareness of the condition and help tackle the stigma and misunderstanding that still surrounds it.

The move has been welcomed by campaigners in Scotland.

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Julia already exists in spin-off Sesame Street print and digital books as part of an initiative called Sesame Street And Autism: See Amazing In All Children.

She will be introduced in an episode due to air in the US on April 10th.

Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop's senior vice president of US social impact, said one in 68 American children was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

"We wanted to promote a better understanding and reduce the stigma often found around these children. Just as we look at all children as being unique, we should do the same thing when we're looking at children with autism," she said.

Sesame Street has been on the air since 1969 and features a host of famous characters including Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, Elmo and Cookie Monster.

In her first appearance, Julia is introduced to Big Bird but ignores him - leaving him wondering if she doesn't like him. But the other muppets tell him: "She does things just a little differently," writer Christine Ferraro told CBS news. On another occasion, she becomes over excited when other children are playing a chasing game. "That's a thing that can be typical of some kids with autism," Ms Ferraro added.

Jenny Paterson, director of The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: "We're really pleased to see a popular TV show like Sesame Street introducing an autistic character. This is a significant step in improving public understanding of autism, and making people on the autism spectrum feel more accepted.

"Almost everyone has heard of autism now. But a much smaller number of people understand what it actually means to be autistic, the difficulties autistic people can face – and their strengths too."

Ms Paterson said other films, books and series had contributed to big leaps forward in understanding autism, including TV's The A Word, and the book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. "We hope that Julia, the Sesame Street character, will have a similar effect and inspire other writers and film-makers to reflect the diversity of the autism spectrum in their work,” she added.