Toy maker Mattel has introduced its first Barbie with Down syndrome in a bid to make its famous doll range more inclusive.
Down syndrome is a genetic condition where a person is born with an extra copy of chromosome 21. This means that they have a total of 47 chromosomes instead of 46.
This can affect how their brain and body develop, physicians say; noting that people diagnosed with Down syndrome have happy and healthy lives with supportive care.
In a statement on Tuesday, Mattel said it had worked with the National Down Syndrome Society in the United States to make the doll, which has a shorter frame and longer torso than its other Barbies.
The new doll’s face is also a rounder shape, and has almond-shaped eyes, smaller ears and a flat nasal bridge, Mattel said.
“The doll’s palms even include a single line, a characteristic often associated with those with Down’s syndrome,” Mattel said.
The doll is dressed is a puff sleeved frock adorned with butterflies and flowers in yellow and blue – colours associated with Down syndrome awareness.
She wears a pink necklace with three upward chevrons representing the three copies of the 21st chromosome as well as pink ankle foot orthotics, Mattel said.
“Our goal is to enable all children to see themselves in Barbie, while also encouraging children to play with dolls who do not look like themselves,” Lisa McKnight, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Barbie & Dolls, Mattel, said in the statement.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, some common physical features of Down syndrome include:
- A flattened face, especially the bridge of the nose
- Almond-shaped eyes that slant up
- A short neck
- Small ears
- A tongue that tends to stick out of the mouth
- Tiny white spots on the iris (colored part) of the eye
- Small hands and feet
- A single line across the palm of the hand (palmar crease)
- Small pinky fingers that sometimes curve toward the thumb
- Poor muscle tone or loose joints
- Shorter in height as children and adults
One factor that increases the risk for having a baby with Down syndrome is the mother’s age.
“Women who are 35 years or older when they become pregnant are more likely to have a pregnancy affected by Down syndrome than women who become pregnant at a younger age.
“However, the majority of babies with Down syndrome are born to mothers less than 35 years old, because there are many more births among younger women,” CDC says.