Dolls with Down syndrome

When I was a kid I loved Barbie.

Oh, secretly of course, I knew loving that mainstream bit of blonde freakishness with her otherworldly proportions, built-in high heeled feet and rock-hard (nipple-less!) bosoms would not win admiration for me from my parents, but...yeah. I loved her.

In retrospect, it was more accurate to say that I wanted to be her. I had scars all over my face, remember, my hair would never grow long, I was impossibly ungainly and awkward. I had thick glasses. Hearing aids! It was pretty painful.

If you had given me a doll at that point in my life with hearing aids, I would have been horribly offended and pissed off.

I thought of that many times over the years as I see more dolls with disabilities entering the market.

While I know that I would not have wanted one – struggling as I was to fit in, have friends, be accepted, I would not have touched one of those dolls with a disability with a ten foot pole. I wanted Barbie! I wanted a doll that everyone wanted because I wanted to be included and ft in. I didn’t want a doll that looked like me; I wanted a doll that was desirable, that others wanted, that was cool.

Giving me a scar faced doll or a doll with hearing aids would have felt to me even more isolating. Like, “oh, thanks. A doll just like me, exactly what I wanted. I’ll just sit in the corner here with my different-like-me doll and play because all the other kids have Barbie, but NOT ME because I’m “special.”” *weak fist thump*

Now, if I had seen another child playing with a doll with hearing aids… a child without hearing aids playing with a doll with hearing aids? That would have blown me away. Big time. Actually, that would have meant the world to me.

Dolls with disabilities

I have gradually come to think that the best part of dolls with disabilities isn’t for the kids with disabilities so much as for everyone else. That is to say, that dolls would disabilities could have an enormous impact on the adults of tomorrow by normalizing disability for children of today. Give the dolls with hearing aids, who use wheelchairs, who have a chest scar from having had open heart surgery, give the bald dolls – the cancer survivors – and the dolls that use walking crutches, the dolls with interesting facial shapes, the dolls with Down syndrome – give those dolls to kids who don’t have that disability. Give it to the kids who don’t have a disability at all even.

Give the dolls with disabilities to kids who don’t have that disability (or any disability)

mainstream the dolls with a disability. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t think kids with disabilities need to have a doll that looks like themselves necessarily; I think it’s more powerful for them to see another kid playing with a doll that looks like themselves. To see that a representation of themselves can be wanted and included.

When Ashton Drake contacted me about “Special Joy”, their doll with Down syndrome, I was really curious and eager to see what a doll with Down syndrome would look like. I mean, how would this work? How would you make a doll with Down syndrome and include enough features to recognize the doll as having Down syndrome but at the same time, avoid negative stereotypes?

They sent us Joy and… WHOAH.

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This doll is ah.mayyyy.zinggg. She is almost disturbingly life like. The part of her that express Down syndrome are her bent pinkie, her sandalfeet. She has a single crease in her palm and her legs look as if they could be low tone – the way they fall reminds me of how Moxie’s would fall when she was a baby.

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Moxie loves her. Mack loves her too.

I don’t think Moxie (or Mack) loves Joy because she recognizes that Joy has Down syndrome or that Down syndrome has any part in this, really. I think she loves Joy because Joy feels like a real baby – her limbs are fashioned from some incredibly life-like substance, her weight is perfect, she feels like a genuine human baby.

I think anyone who likes dolls – adults included – would love Joy. And like I said,  I would like to see this doll, along with other dolls with disabilities, being played with and loved by people who don’t necessarily have a connection with Down syndrome. That someone with Down syndrome might at some point see a person without Down syndrome playing with a doll like Joy and feel something really warm cackle around in their heart, a fuzzy from the the delight that acceptance and inclusion bring.

Giveaway

With this month being Down syndrome Acceptance Month, Ashton Drake will be giving away a Special Joy here on this blog.

The doll retails for around $130 – she is thrillingly lifelike. Stunningly crafted. She’s a collector’s doll who is tough enough to handle the love that Moxie and MacQuinn wrap her in. She’s a doll that I’d encourage everyone and anyone who loves dolls to buy – or give to someone else who loves  dolls. This is about a beautiful doll that was made with care and detail (and no, they did not pay me for writing this stuff! )

Entering the giveaway is easy. Just comment or answer this question: do you like dolls?!

*****

For more info on Ashton Drake and “Special Joy” (along with way better photos of her!), please visit their site HERE.

*giveaway limited to the US unfortunately *

giveaway winner will be picked at 5am on 10/31, Lost Coast time 😉

 

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
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55 Comments

  • I was never a big doll person, but maybe that was because the only doll that ‘looked’ like me was Pipi Longstocking 🙂 I had mixed feelings when I first heard of this doll, but have decided that even if there are only a small number of kids who get that amazing feeling of I LOVE THIS DOLL from it, then why not. I also love the whole idea of these dolls not just being for our community, but as a staple in preschools and nursey schools across the world. Now that, would be amazing xo

  • I have always loved dolls, although I was convinced they were my real babies! I love inclusion and always loved having toys that represented everyone, I hated to see anyone left out (even within my toys)…maybe that’s part of why I am a social worker now.

  • My daughter loves dolls…and pushing them around the house in the stroller…and changing their diapers (telling them that they’ve pooped)…and putting them to sleep, face down with a blanket on top. I’d really love this doll for her!!

  • I’m always so surprised watching hailey okay with her babies. She is never around them so I don’t knew where she learned. She’s always feeding one, “reading” to one or walking one in her grocery cart that she caller her stroller. I am so in love with this doll. It will have to wait though…I can’t spend that much on a doll…

    Thank you for your perspective!!!! It was eye opening. I always loved Barbie because she was thin.

  • I like dolls. When I was little my sister and I had Mandy and Jenny dolls. I think that if I won this I’d loan it to my sister’s kids for a couple of years so my son, who has T21 and is only 8 months old, could see them playing with it. Then when he’s older they could give it back and he can play with it. Thanks fit the chance to win one. It’s a bit too pricey for me to give them as a gift.

  • I had one special doll when I was a little girl. My 2yr old daughter who has DS loves to play with her “bee-bee” (baby doll). It was one of her first words:)

  • I love the dolls- I also wish American Girl made dolls with slanted eyes (they do not and do not plan on it according to the reply they gave me.

  • Meriah,

    This is like an answer to prayer. Ever since our son was born with Ds I have looked for a doll. All the ones on the market were goofy looking or to me didn’t demonstrate that specialness of a child with DS. Finally, my adult daughter hired a doll maker in Colorado to design a doll using photos of our son as her model. It is gorgeous. And the best thing about our Henry doll is the size and feel of him. Our 3 year old adores this doll and plays with it all the time dressing him in her baby brothers clothes. This summer she was pushing him in the buggy and it tipped and the poor fellows porcelain leg broke off. We bandaged it and she has continued in playing with him as if there was nothing wrong. The other day the foot on his other leg broke off. Just yesterday another of my daughters and I were looking at the doll and commenting on how he couldn’t really wear his little sleeper now. We determined to try to find a vinyl doll for Carmella because she loves this doll so much. My 19 year old finally determined we would have to go to one of those places that make dolls look like your child.

    I love this doll. I love that the timing is so perfect. I think Carmella would love her. Thanks for this giveaway and even if we don’t win thank you so much for the info!!!!

    By the way, I read the book you suggested this summer (Life with a Superhero) last week. Couldn’t put it down! But I was left with conflicting emotions for sure.

  • I’ve so loved the multiple perspectives of your blog, American. Thank you.

    As a kid I played mostly with trolls (making handkerchief parachutes was a big activity). My 4 GRANDKIDS love, love, love dolls. I know they’d get a lot of Joy joy.

  • I am a grandma, and I have watched ALL my grandchildren, girls and boys, have wonderful relationships with dolls. We love dolls.

  • I have a little girl who loves dolls and would adore playing with this. I’m also a therapist and work with lots of children with disabilities (including DS.) I would LOVE to have this doll in my office – not just for the “disabled” kids to play with but for all the kids to play with. A realistic doll (who looks and feels like a real baby) would be amazing. Thanks for the giveaway and the information about these dolls!

  • The doll maker that is equally expensive and incredibly popular, does have wheelchairs, hearing aids, etc. as items you can buy, much like earrings, or other sports equipment. I have read some positive stories about these features, that have made older children feel included.

    The doll you are describing is a huge step up in quality and the fact it is a baby. Sure they get hauled around naked for a couple years. If they survive that then the clothing, etc becomes important. I am so glad this doll could come to market.

  • My son goes to a daycare. I would love to donate it there where many kids could play with it. I loved dolls when i was little and I was a tomboy.

  • Yes, I love dolls. When I was little my grandmother made all the clothes for my Barbies and I played with them all the time. I would love to have this doll for my children!

  • I didn’t have very many dolls growing up, but I’ve always loved dolls. Baby Alive was probably my most memorable. 🙂 I have an 11 year old who is obsessed with baby dolls. She calls them all “Baby”, takes loving care of them and talks to them as if they are real.

  • I would love to win this baby doll for my daughter. We both love baby dolls!! Her cousins now have Ashton Drake baby dolls and she really wants one too. Thanks for the opportunity.

  • We love dolls! I would love to win this doll for my 2 year old daughter! Her little brother was just diagnosed with down syndrome, and this doll would be really special!!

  • Was the winner announced yet? I made the mistake of telling my daughter I was trying to win a new baby doll for her : )

  • I would love to win this doll! It’s for my niece she was diagnosed with Down syndrome and these doll are absolute as beautiful as she is! 🙂

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