TORONTO – A collection of dolls with the facial characteristics of Down Syndrome has sparked debate online.
Connie Feda, the mother of a child with Down Syndrome, hopes to launch Dolls for Downs next month.
“We’ve got a lot of pre-orders from Canada,” she told Global News on Wednesday.
Feda claims she has received nearly 500 pre-orders from several countries.
“Considering we don’t have the vinyl version yet, and people are ordering largely by description, we expect that number to double with actual photographs,” she said.
Feda plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign on Friday to raise funds needed to manufacture and market the 12 female and six male dolls. Each sells for $75 plus shipping.
Feda, who lives in Pittsburgh, said her daughter Hannah was frustrated that none of the dolls she saw looked like her.
Feda collaborated with Karen Scott, a doll sculptor in Michigan, to come up with a prototype.
The dolls stand about 18 inches and are available with a variety of skin tones and hair colours and can be customized with a “heart scar,” which many children with Down Syndrome have.
Clothing for the dolls is designed to address sensory issues through the use of Velcro, snaps and large buttons.
The collection includes optional accessories like leg braces and feeding tubes.
Not everyone believes the dolls are a good idea. Calgary’s Krista Flint, former executive director of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), fears the dolls perpetuate the notion that people with Down Syndrome all look alike.
“Not every person with Down syndrome has almond shaped eyes, or a single palm crease, or an exaggerated space between thier (sic) toes, or a flattened nose bridge,” she wrote on her blog, InclusiveHumanity.com.
Feda said she has the “full support” of the U.S. National Down Syndrome Society.
In a statement, the organization said: “Any doll or toy that builds confidence and is fun for a child with Down Syndrome is great.”
Feda said she would welcome an opportunity to speak with the CDSS and other Canadians advocating for children with Down Syndrome.
“My doll is more than a toy,” she said. “It’s a well thought-out therapy aid.”