My name is Kayla McKeon and in honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I want to talk to all of you about the importance of dolls with Down syndrome. I am the first registered lobbyist in the nation with Down syndrome, and promoting representation of Down syndrome is important to me and others with Down syndrome across the country.  I am going to discuss how representation is crucial today, especially in the world we currently live in.

In 2019, Miniland created their first Baby Dolls with Down syndrome, leading to international awards and life changing moments, best showcased when a little girl with Down syndrome was gifted a Miniland doll with Down syndrome. The video went viral on TikTok in 2021.

NDSS first worked with Miniland in 2022, when they launched their entire Miniland Doll collection in America with different genders and ethnicities, even glasses and hearing implants. Showcasing the beauty of Down syndrome and the power of representation was so beautiful to see. They helped at our New York City Buddy Walk® and made a whole play area for children to enjoy playing with the dolls, clothes and accessories and even got to take them home with them. I realized how lucky these kids were to have dolls that looked like them, something I didn’t have when I was growing up.

This past year, I was honored to provide my input to help the Barbie™ team create their doll with Down syndrome. Just as Miniland did when they made their Baby dolls, we worked hard to have the doll have the features I, and many others with Down syndrome, have. Some of the features included the shorter stature, the almond shaped eyes, the crease in the center of the palm, and the curved pinky. Some people with Down syndrome have these characteristics or some don’t. Like the Miniland dolls, some people wear glasses and some don’t. I thought it was a great idea to mention some of these qualities in this blog.

Miniland’s newest Doll with Down syndrome from the Colourful Dolls edition comes complete with Glasses and a blue romper!

I love watching how children with Down syndrome interact with these dolls, and seeing the smiles on their faces. It is so much fun to watch. When I was a young girl, I loved playing with dolls myself and never thought twice about having a doll that looked like me. That is such a novelty to me to see dolls now versus what it was back when I was a very young girl. I love seeing dolls for different ages with Down syndrome now out on shelves.

A little girl plays with her Miniland dolls at NDSS’ Buddy Walk 2022 in NYC.

I feel it is very crucial today for kids to get to say “wow this doll has features like me. This doll has Down syndrome how cool is this!” It makes my heart so full and happy when they are playing with a doll that reflects them because the world today might be a scary place where sometimes we just want to get away from it. These dolls and the opportunity for children to have something that reflects them and is respected by society is so important and revolutionary.

Kayla McKeon, NDSS Guest Blogger