A writer I've long admired, Dodai noted that these accessories could help kids with special needs feel included, and even "normalize" disability because they're on the same catalog page as everyday items like boots and a hairbrush. These objects, she said, could also help raise awareness about kids who need hearing aids and wheelchairs. Props, I thought. Even better, make dolls that come with this stuff. Y-e-s! But when she questioned the "ultra-customization," it touched a nerve.
"Does it put too much emphasis on the individual?" she mused. "Is it all connected to this new selfishness, the kind of parenting that insists every child is a special snowflake, worthy of praise for just existing?"
That doesn't describe this parent, or the many I know who have kids with special needs. If there's one thing I want for Max, it's for others to see him as NON-special. I'd like kids and adults to quit thinking of him as different. I ache for people to look past his disabilities and see the kid in there.
It's not that doll accessories are going to change how the world perceives kids with special needs (as if), but they couldn't hurt and they might help. And I sure could use any help I can get because many parents don't seem to speak with their kids about how to treat those with special needs.
He's just a boy, I sometimes feel like shouting. Stop staring at him like he's an alien. Just talk to him. Play with him.
Oh, and to be sure, I do think my kid is a "special snowflake." Countless others think their children are, too. They're called "parents." That's our jobs. If we're not our kids' publicists, who's gonna be—Leslie Sloane? As moms to kids with special needs, it becomes our mission to get others to see how much they rock, the opposite of what Dodai calls "selfishness." Otherwise, our "special snowflakes" would fade away.
So when companies include our kids in some way—and it's rare, despite recent ads featuring children with disabilities—I'm thrilled, as I'm sure many special needs parents are. Let's not over-think what's going on here. Sure, Special Sparkle is part (or all) marketing ploy. But I see no bad...other than the fact that American Girl is charging 38 bucks for a doll wheelchair.