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Hey, American Girl: Make a Doll with Down syndrome

posted Wednesday April 10th, 2013

Dear Ms. Silverman,

Thank you for writing to share your request. We certainly understand
your desire for a My American Girl® doll with Down’s Syndrome. Over the
years, we have received many requests for characters facing various
medical conditions or physical challenges. We realize that girls want a
character to which they can relate.

All of these requests are important to us, as well as to the people who
are asking to create specific characters. Although we get our ideas
from our own staff, we sincerely appreciate requests such as yours as
they help us determine if we are meeting the needs of the girls we
serve. We will continue to do our best to bring you products and
services of the highest quality. Please watch for new developments in
our catalogues and on our website at


American Girl Customer Service
Phone: 1-800-845-0005 or 608-831-5210
Fax: 608-828-4790
Available Monday – Sunday 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. Central Time

In other words, no. We will not make an American Girl doll with Down syndrome.

I have to admit that I’m not 100% convinced the world needs a doll with Down syndrome. Let me clarify — not just any doll. For a while, years ago, I was convinced that Cabbage Patch Dolls all had it; that freaked me out. And it makes me sad when, from time to time, I stumble across a line of dolls with Down syndrome designed by a well-meaning mom of a kid with DS.

With all due respect, Sophie and the rest of the kids — and even more important, their typical peers — deserve something better. They deserve what the rest of the girls get. They deserve an American Girl doll with Down syndrome.

I get the complaints about American Girl dolls. For starters, they are really freaking expensive. And the add-ons (ears pierced? hair styled? a doll hospital?) are ridiculous.

But I love the back stories. That, the company really gets right. It’s brilliant marketing. I had just bought Annabelle her first American Girl doll when they released Rebecca, the Jewish one — which, of course, I had to buy. So then Annabelle had two. Then they came out with Mia, the doll that gets bullied. We had to have that one. When Sophie begged for Gwen, the homeless American Girl doll, what was I supposed to say?

Which is why today, if you walk past our playroom, you might be startled by the tangled, naked orgy of messy-haired dolls on the floor. The dolls wind up taking second place to the accessories (Rebecca’s sweet, tiny menorah that I put next to our grown-up one each Hanukkah; and the movie about Mia and Gwen, that I made an entire slumber party of girls watch at Sophie’s last birthday celebration) but the fact remains that there’s a Jewish American Girl doll — and one for just about every other ethnic group you can think of.

There’s even a tiny wheelchair you can purchase for your American Girl doll, although the clear implication is that it’s designed for a doll with an injury that will heal, rather than someone in it for life.


It’s not just about marketing. It’s about education, something that only comes when you have a captive audience. For me, this is as much (or more) about a doll that Sophie’s friends will want to own as it is about a doll for her.

I get all the reasons American Girl hasn’t come out with a doll with Down syndrome — it might be awkward to alter features on a doll when they really don’t do much to change up the ethnically diverse ones. AG makes a big deal out of how you can buy a doll that looks just like your kid, but the truth is that they really all look alike. Again, it’s the back story.

I’m not saying it would be easy. I’m saying it would be fantastic — I can’t think of a single thing the toy industry could do to encourage acceptance and education about developmental disabilities at an early age that would have a greater impact.

You want to teach kids (girls, at least) to quit using the word retarded, or never use it in the first place? This is how.

Every time I walk by the playroom, I swear we’ll never buy another American Girl doll. But for this, I’d make an exception. They better hurry up, though, before my girls and their friends outgrow dolls altogether.

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Tags: Filed under: Down syndrome by Amysilverman

6 Responses to “Hey, American Girl: Make a Doll with Down syndrome”

  1. Amy, I totally get this – and I’ve posted on FB recently the story of the woman who, in spite of American Girl dolls, has made dolls which look like our kids. Seriously! Scar, check. Hands, check. Toes, check. She has an assortment of hair/ eye and skin tone colours, too – and even boy dolls. They are currently being pre-marketed, with shipment due in early May. They run about $85 including shipping – much cheaper than the AG dolls, too. I saw this woman’s story online and immediately juimped at the chance to have a doll for Madeline who LOOKS like Madeline. I would encourage your to check her out – and promote her efforts like crazy. Yes, AG has a great marketing strategy and all… but they do NOT have a doll with Down Syndrome – and I highly doubt they ever will. The site is: (She’s on FB, too)

  2. A couple of years ago, also inspite of the plethora of half naked, crazy-haired dolls in my children’s possession I found myself wanting a doll for Abby that had Down syndrome. Every single doll that was marketed for that- creeped me out. And I didn’t want to buy what to me was a creepy looking doll and tell my daughter whom I routinely find and gush over how beautiful she is, that this doll represents her. At that same time Punky- that Irish cartoon about the girl who has Ds came out and that- that I was for. We got that and it now sits happily amongst the set of kids dvds that we never watch because we never watch DVDS. But it’s there and I enjoy the show. At that same time some of the other families on-line that we were friends with because of the connetion of Ds were having this Spanish Doll-maker adapt the eyes on these Waldorf-style dolls to represent Ds. The doll with “the eyes” just just as darling to me as the other dolls she made. So I put in my order. And it took a ridiculously long time because the woman had some health issues of her own, and you know they were coming from Spain and are personalized dolls- you choose some of the features/skin tone/hair/clothes etc.

    Fast forward a year and a half later when our dolls came. For our oldest daughter I had asked to have the eyes blue and heart shaped- because she is both full of heart and wears her heart so openly. Check.

    Pull out Abby’s doll and the eyes don’t look like the eyes of our friend’s dolls. Really, they look pretty similar to Maddie’s dolls eyes. I get the lesson in this now as I’m typing this and really this should be my own post rather than a response to yours. :)

    In the meantime Abby had fallen in love with the Target version of the AG doll. She was quite specific in which she loved and who am I tell her it doesn’t represent her right? Now those two dolls are friends.

    I don’t know if I’d buy a Ds AG…..regardless I’d like to see it happen.

  3. [...] of my favorite bloggers had a recent post about AG dolls and in reading this post I was brought back in time for my own version of this [...]

  4. Good for you! I wrote to AG years ago, when my now 16 year old was little, and asked for the very same thing; I received the same response. My older sister has Down’s and I would have bought three of these dolls had one been produced. My beloved sister lives overseas and I so rarely get to spend time with her now. I haven’t bought AG products for YEARS, but, like you, would definitely make a purchase or two if a Down’s child was created. I check the new doll each year in the hope that one day American Girl will get with the program.

  5. P.S. My sister’s entire face lights up when she smiles. How about AG re-creating that!

  6. Just found this post – right after I sent an email to American Girl requesting a doll for my granddaughter who has DS. Maybe eventually they will take up the challange!

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