I’m going to start by saying that I love the initiative behind the “Doll for Downs” project. The mom who created this doll had the clear intention of giving her daughter with Down syndrome a doll she could relate to. And, I love the dolls!
Here’s what’s great about Dolls for Downs:
- They are cute—perfect and realistic.
- The details are great: Tiny feet, almond-shaped eyes, and even a heart surgery scar.
- They are ideal for any child as a way of “normalizing” the unique features and beauty of people with Down syndrome.
- I respect and admire mothers who are passionate about empowering others to believe and make positive changes in the world, while normalizing the perception of disabilities.
- I also loved the article published some days ago. The writer used great wording talking about kids with Down syndrome. I really appreciate when writers, bloggers and media understand the importance of using people-first language.
Here’s what troubles me about Dolls for Downs:
- The name concerns me, as I’m against labeling people according to their disability.
- Our kids we’ll never get the chance to be considered people first if we keep calling them “Downs” (which is inaccurate to begin with it, since it is Down syndrome, not Downs syndrome or Down’s syndrome) and if we keep promoting the idea that there is a separate “Down community” and products created exclusively for them.
- Calling the doll a “Doll for Downs” limits its beauty. It sounds to me like only “Downs” can find her useful and beautiful, when this doll, just like any person with Down syndrome, has the ability and the gifts to be considered a cherished toy for any child.
I’m a mother and I highly respect other moms because I know in my heart how tough life can be when you raise a typical child, and even more so when you raise one child with special needs or two, as in my case.
I would buy this doll for all of my friends’ kids, nieces, nephews and anyone else, but I really feel this doll needs a new name, a name as “typical” as any other doll on the market. I know marketing is not easy and sometimes even our online community pushes us to label our kids, promoting us parents to use the most popular tags and keywords, like Downs, special needs kids, Downs parents, etc. But is important to change this mentality and help people to evolve so they understand that our kids are kids first and foremost, and everything about them is not limited to their condition.
I would love to see that pretty little doll hanging out with the others in the toy section, with no differentiating label. I would love to hear girls and boys talking about her. “Hey look! She looks like my classmate, or like my friend.” Or “Mom, I want this doll because she’s beautiful. Look her beautiful eyes,” or maybe, “I admire her for her strength and that scar talks about how brave she is.”
I hope this doll becomes a great tool for touching lives, for creating awareness and for making people understand that you don’t need an extra chromosome to love a doll with Down syndrome. The only thing you need is to understand that we are all more alike than different, and we all have important lessons to share with and learn from others.
To understand the importance of “people first language,” take a look at the language guidelines from the National Down Syndrome Congress. People first, kids first, humans first. How cool is that?