Next month, Elmo will be palling around with a brand new friend on Sesame Street: A Muppet named Julia. Julia is four years old with red hair and green eyes, and she likes to paint and pick flowers. Julia has autism.

The character of Julia was introduced to the world last year during Sesame Street’s Autism Awareness Initiative, “See Amazing in All Children.” At that point, Julia was featured in children’s books, online stories and videos, and a mobile app all designed to help kids better understand how to interact with people who have autism. On April 10th, Julia will make her small screen debut as a permanent Muppet resident of Sesame Street. Once again, the popular children’s show will be making a bold statement about inclusion.

Now, what does a children’s show that has been a champion of diversity and inclusion since 1969 have to do with Martial Art, and more specifically The Welch Martial Art Experience? Quite a lot, actually.

At The Welch Martial Art Experience, we’re firm believers in everyone’s potential to train, improve, and work together to meet those ends – regardless of race, background, social status, age, ability, or learning differences. True, we understand that everyone’s training is different because individual improvement is the very nature of Martial Art, and not everyone can train in exactly the same way or even at the same pace. But that doesn’t mean that not everyone can train, learn, and improve. And we really strive to drive home this point of acceptance, diversity, and inclusion with our youth classes, which we have dubbed our Juniors Program.

In our Juniors classes we have an incredibly wide variety of students, all of whom have their own challenges to overcome. We make it a point to teach all of our students that not everyone will struggle with the same things, and that there is incredible value in training with people who are different and are working on different things together.

Whether you’re taller or shorter than your training partner, you can learn something from one another. Whether you may have issues with self esteem while your training partner is on the autism spectrum, you can learn something from one another. We try to create a safe place for all children in our Juniors Program where students can be themselves, create friendships with others, and learn to find strength and value in what makes them different.

We at the Welch Experience are looking forward to Julia’s arrival on Sesame Street, as it will provide a wonderful way for us to address diversity, inclusion, and Autism in particular with our students. Everyone is different; the way you choose to view your differences is something Martial Art training will positively effect along your journey to… Become The Change You Seek.