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Meet Baby Charlie, the doll with Down syndrome

Joe Attanasio, December 2, 2020 7:00PM The Daily Telegraph

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Gemma Namey with daughters Evie, 2, and Isabelle, 6, who has Down Syndrome, with one of the new dolls. Picture: Jonathan Ng media_cameraGemma Namey with daughters Evie, 2, and Isabelle, 6, who has Down Syndrome, with one of the new dolls. Picture: Jonathan Ng

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Kmart has launched a new range of Down syndrome dolls in what is being labelled a big win for disability representation.

The new dolls – named Baby Charlie with Down Syndrome – launched this week and are $15.

Baby Charlie joins other new dolls on Kmart shelves including one who uses a wheelchair, and another who is vision impaired, and another on crutches.

Down Syndrome Australia* has expressed its support, stating they were contacted by Kmart before the development of the dolls.

“They reached out to DSA early in the process to consult with us about their ideas, and we’re happy to see dolls with Down syndrome in their new line of inclusive* toys,” DSA management said.

Supplied Editorial media_cameraNew Baby Charlie with Down Syndrome dolls.

Down Syndrome Australia CEO, Dr Ellen Skladzien, said she is pleased to see the positive steps Kmart is taking to be more inclusive.

“This new range of dolls from Kmart highlights the importance of introducing diversity* and representation,” Dr Skladzien said.

“Many members of our community have expressed excitement that children with Down syndrome are represented in this new range of toys.”

In a statement on its website, DSA said the dolls “represent the diversity of the world we live in. It means that children are exposed to that diversity from an early age and can find dolls that look like them or their friends.”

It also acknowledged that not everyone was completely happy with the dolls.

“Down Syndrome Australia are also aware that some members of our community have concerns about some of the visual aspects the Baby Charlie range. We hope that Kmart will review this feedback and take it on board to develop other dolls with Down syndrome in the future which are representative of a wider range of children who have Down syndrome.”

Parents have posted positive comments about the dolls on social media, expressing their joy that children with the condition finally have a doll they can relate to.

“Kmart coming in strong and selling Down Syndrome dolls, all is right in the world in this moment,” one woman posted to Facebook.

Another Facebook user whose son has Down syndrome labelled the dolls a “great start”.

“I think it’s a great start on inclusion … I will be buying some to donate to his school,” she said.

“Kmart Australia is showing how to do inclusion! Their doll range includes LGBTQ* families, people of colour, physical disabilities and now a doll with Down Syndrome!” another user said.

“Representation matters and seeing people from all walks of life is so important.”

Supplied Editorial media_cameraKmart’s doll who uses a wheelchair is part of the company’s inclusive range of dolls.

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY
December 3 is the United Nations’ International Day of People with Disability (IDPwD).

The day aims to promote public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability.

The UN’s name for this day is International Day of Disabled Persons, with slight variations for the name of the day in different countries.

Watch: International Day of people with disability

GLOSSARY

  • Down Syndrome Australia: support, information and resource organisation for people with Down syndrome and their families
  • inclusive: including everyone
  • diversity: a range of different things
  • LGBTQ: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the main news of this story?
  2. Describe three dolls in Kmart’s inclusive toy range.
  3. What does Dr Ellen Skladzien think of the dolls?
  4. What date each year is the International Day of People with Disability?
  5. What is the point of the International Day of People with Disability?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Write a back story
Sometimes dolls come with a short backstory telling us their name and where they have come from.

Write a short backstory (1 paragraph) introducing us to the new dolls available from Kmart. While you can mention their disability focus more on their abilities. What do they like to do, do they have a career, do they play a sport? Baby Charlie’s name has been mentioned, however, you can make up your own names for the other dolls.

You may even like to design and write a backstory for another doll with a different impairment/disability.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative thinking

2. Extension
Today is International Day of People with Disability. Watch the video in the article. It asks us to ‘see the ability in disability’.

Write a jingle (short, catchy song) to remind people to look for the abilities of people with a disability and not focus on their disability or impairment. Your song should be easy to remember and upbeat so that people can sing along to it.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity 
Curriculum Links: English, Personal and Social Capability, Critical and Creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Opener Operation

After reading the article, with a partner, highlight all the openers you can find in blue. Discuss if they are powerful and varied openers or not. Why do you think the journalists have used a mix of simple and power openers? Would you change any, and why?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What other dolls do you think should be made?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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