Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Barbie launches new doll with Down’s syndrome

*Image credit: Mattel

The American toy company Mattel has created a new Barbie with Down’s syndrome, as part of plans to create “the most diverse doll line on the market”.

Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie and Dolls says Mattel is “dedicated to doing [their] part to counter social stigma through play”.

Barbie has also introduced dolls with vitiligo, dolls that use a wheelchair or a prosthetic limb, a doll with hearing aids and a doll without hair.

“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves. Doll play outside of a child’s own lived experience can teach understanding and build a greater sense of empathy, leading to a more accepting world,” Ms McKnight said.

What does the new Barbie doll look like?

The Barbie doll with Down’s syndrome was created in partnership with the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) to ensure that the doll accurately reflected people with Down’s syndrome.

The dolls have a shorter frame, a longer torso and certain facial features such as smaller ears, a flat nasal bridge and almond shaped eyes. The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down’s syndrome.

A blue and yellow dress with a butterfly pattern was chosen as the outfit for the doll, as these symbols and colours are often associated with Down’s syndrome awareness.

A pink pendant necklace with three upward chevrons represents the three copies of the 21st chromosome was also chosen for the doll as well as pink ankle foot orthotics, as some children with Down’s syndrome use orthotics to support their feet and ankles.

Kandi Pickard, NDSS President and CEO, said: “It was an honour working with Barbie on the Barbie doll with Down syndrome. This means so much for our community, who for the first time, can play with a Barbie doll that looks like them.

“This Barbie serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate the power of representation. It is a huge step forward for inclusion and a moment that we are celebrating.”

Ellie Goldstein has partnered with Mattel to launch the new doll

Mattel says that doll play helps set children on a course for success by allowing them to develop empathy – fuelling social skills needed to excel as they imagine their futures with an equal playing field.

The Barbie doll with Down’s syndrome allows more children to see themselves in Barbie as well as the world around them, which can help foster a sense of inclusivity.

To launch the new doll, Mattel has partnered with British model Ellie Goldstein, who recently made history as the first model with Down’s syndrome to feature on the cover of British Vogue.

Ms Goldstein said: “I am so happy that there is a Barbie with Down’s syndrome. Seeing the doll, I felt so overwhelmed – it meant a lot to me and I’m so honoured and proud that Barbie chose me to show the doll to the world.

“Diversity is important to me as people need to see more people like me out there in the world and not be hidden away.”

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