Everyone can agree that disability representation in the method of toys has been needed for a long time. It needs to be done right for further harm can happen. American Girl and Walmart each put out a disabled doll. American Girl got it with a Deaf doll right where Walmart got it horribly wrong with an autistic one.
Walmart recently announced they were releasing an “Autism Advocate” doll. It is under their brand My Life As. They create 18 inch dolls that are similar to American Girl dolls and are much less expensive. This doll is a girl with long blonde hair. She has a winter beanie with a heart patch on the front made up on puzzle pieces. She is wearing a pair of red ear defenders under the beanie. She has a fidget spinner and smart phone as an accessory. She also has matching puzzle piece bracelets. One for the toy and one of the child.
She is also wearing a red vest over a grey tee shirt that says :
It is quite obvious no autistic person was involved in the development of this doll. She resembles the autistic main character in Sia’s film Music. This doll perpetuates all stereotypes about autistic people except for the fact she isn’t male. They use the hate symbol all over the doll’s clothing. The autistic community prefers the infinity symbol in rainbow, red or gold.
The autism acronym is repeated by martyr parents to explain why they cannot relate to their children. The reason the autistic community does not like it is because it perpetuates a myth that all autistic people are the same. Every autistic person is different.
Not every autistic person uses fidget spinners. It is a stereotype that autistic people are on their phones all the time. Stereotypes help no one.
Because its Walmart, this is not surprising. They have partnered with Autism Speaks to sell their horrible puzzle piece, martyr and cureist shirts in Walmart stores. But surprisingly enough, Autism Speaks was not involved in creating this toy.
The autistic community wants representation but not like this. Consult autistic people about autistic representation.
American Girl announced their new Doll of 2020 just before the new year last year. American Girl wanted to start of 2020 with a message of ambition and inclusivity. Joss Kendrick is a Deaf 10 year old surfer. Joss is the company’s girl of the year for 2020 Joss is from Huntington Beach, California. She has two brothers and a bulldog. She has long brown hair, brown eyes and wears and swim suit, hoodie and shorts.
Joss is the first ever doll who is disabled. American Girl always had a wheelchair, crutches ,etc as accessories. This is the first doll that has a back story as a disabled girl. They chose surfer because surfing was being introduced as an Olympic event for the Summer Olympics that unfortunately had to be canceled due to COVID.
“She has a congenital hearing loss. She was born deaf in her left ear and can hear a little bit in her right ear,” American Girl president Jamie Cygeilman said.
There is nothing stereotypical about this doll. There is no cochlear implant, there is a hearing aid. The cochlear implant is considered cure culture in the Deaf community. A Deaf person was obviously consulted during the development of the doll and her back story. There is no talk of being a surfer “despite of being Deaf.” She is just a 10 year old surfer. There is no mention of her being “hearing impaired” as it is considered offensive. Great job, American Doll. Thank you for starting inclusion through toys. Walmart could learn a lot from you.