These days, children’s toys and dolls are more inclusive than ever. Gone are the days when Barbie was just a tall blonde obsessed with shopping, in are the days where Barbie is boxing champion Nicola Adams and championing for marriage equality.
But one area where most toys still lag behind is in representing people with disabilities. Amy Jandrisevits, a former social worker in a pediatric oncology unit, knows how much dolls mean to kids battling illness.
“In my time working with the kids,” she writes. “I used dolls in play therapy to help the children express themselves. Dolls are therapeutic in so many ways — ways that I’m not sure we fully understand. It is a human likeness and by extension, a representation of the child who loves it.”
She quickly realized the dolls didn’t look much like her patients: “One day I realized that the dolls’ thick hair and perfect health were doing the kids I was working with a disservice as they were often faced with a wide variety of physical challenges. Many kids have never have had the opportunity to see their sweet faces reflected in a doll. It’s hard to tell a child that they are beautiful but follow it with — but you’ll never see yourself in anything that looks like you.”