Disability Dolls For Down’s Darlings?

1 07 2008

When Mr President first heard about Down’s Syndrome dolls he thought it must be some sort of joke, but after doing some research he finds that they not only exist, but are remarkably popular. Why would you buy  one? Firstly, all you’re doing is highlighting that your kid is different. When a kid with Down’s has one of these and compares them with their friends’ dolls they’ll notice.

This, presumably, is the whole point for having them, but should we really be making them more sensitive to what makes them different from everyone else? Surely we should want kids with Down’s to know that it’s what’s inside that counts, that for all intents and purposes they ARE “normal”. The idea of a special doll undermines this.

Besides, the looks are hugely exaggerated, they’re like caricatures almost ridiculing the way kids with Down’s look (as if they all look the same!). They hardly promote a positive identity for kids with Down’s. Parents of kids with Down’s will tell you that that their children are uniquely beautiful, but the dolls are neither unique or beautiful.

What next? Should we have fat dolls for fat kids? Or ugly dolls for ugly kids?



4 responses

1 07 2008

As a mother of a daughter with Down syndrome, I must say that the concept of the dolls don’t bother me. After all, the whole Cabbage patch craze was about finding dolls that look like your child. What I don’t like about the dolls is that they are like you said, very exaggerated features. There is a list of possible facial characteristics that come with DS, but most kids do not have all of them, yet alone all of them so exaggerated. My daughter is precious and doesn’t look anything like these. She does however LOVE the baby in the mirror, who is adorable. She also loves the pictures of the babies in all of her books. Overall, I do like the concept, but there is a lot more progress to be made in these kinds of dolls before I would consider purchasing one.

1 07 2008
Mr President

I hadn’t actually considered the Cabbage patch craze, and you make a very good point. Still, part of me can’t help but fear that these dolls may end up creating more problems than they solve. Bullying, for example, could become exacerbated by having a “different” doll to everyone else.

Yet my biggest issue is the one you agree with. Not all kids with DS have the same facial traits, and none of them have them to the extent that these dolls portray. Given that your baby daughter can see herself in a mirror and see other babies in books and not find that strange, I wonder if a child with Down’s Syndrome really needs the special doll.

Still, I’m just musing on the subject quite vaguely. Although one of my best friends does have a younger brother with Down’s I certainly could not claim to be “close” to the situation, whereas you clearly can. In light of this, thank you for your comment. It’s given me food for thought.

2 07 2008
Andy D

I had to go look at some of these sites before I commented. I don’t see a problem with the dolls or the manufacturers. I am still trying to think this one through though. I guess the thing that I keep thinking about is: most likely if the kids get one of these dolls, it is because their parent gave them one. Let’s let the parents decide. The manufacturers can make whatever they want, if parent’s buy it, then great, if the don’t, that is ok too. Let the parents decide if their kids should get one.

On another note, great post President. I hadn’t heard of this, and it has really given me food for thought.

2 07 2008
Mr President

You know that I usually tend to agree with you when it comes to things like letting parents decide. The problem here is that it may not be up to the parents in a given situation. What if a friend buys one for the child?

See one thing I discovered about Down’s Syndrome is that one of the things a lot of parents find most difficult is teaching the child to hold their tongue in their mouth rather than sticking it out (again, not all Down’s Syndrome children do this, but I believe a lot do). If they see a doll that looks just like them in every regard except that one, there’s a chance this hard work will be undone. That’s just one scenario.

Of course the question is, are the manufacturers merely fulfilling a need that people have, or cashing in on disability. You say that they can make whatever they want but that’s not strictly so. We do say that there are certain things they cannot make (for safety reasons or taste and decency) and I wonder if this fits in that category or not.

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