Monday, June 6, 2016

That viral video about a doll: What I wish people learned

Like many people, I lost it when I watched the viral video of the girl with a prosthetic leg who got an American Girl doll with a prosthetic leg. "It's got a leg like me!" made tears roll down my face but when Emma Bennett told the camera "Thank you for making a doll like me," I sobbed. That happens every single time I watch it. 

For sure, 10-year-old Emma Bennett of Cypress, Texas, was crying tears of joy. But I also felt her relief pouring through my screen, and it gripped my soul. As Emma's mother, Courtney, told KTRK, she knew her daughter would love the doll—"we never knew how much she really just needed it."

The tears I shed watching Emma were for her and Max, my reaction to the challenges he faces—not from his disability, but from the isolation and alienation he has to contend with. I'll bet that other parents, whether they have a child with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, or other special needs, felt the same.

It can be lonely to be a child with disability. Some kids—and adults—aren't sure how to behave around a kid with noticeable differences; they forget that they are still kids. Some kids aren't sure how to play with those who have disabilities. Some people just stare or gape or gawk or whisper.

At our annual block party this weekend, I watched a group of boys standing in a circle and lobbing a big plastic ball at each other. Max played nearby, pushing around a Radio Flyer wagon and not paying the boys much attention, a typical scenario. As usual, I was grateful that Max felt content to do his own thing. Yet while I didn't fault any of those boys for not reaching out to include Max, I wish they had thought to. Sometimes, Max isn't aware of what he's missing out on, but I am.

So when I saw Emma crying, and so deeply grateful for a doll that resembled her, I cried for her and my boy Max. I cried because I wished that kids with disabilities didn't have it so hard at times. I wish that they didn't feel isolated from their peers, and weren't made to feel different. I wish that their disabilities didn't become their defining characteristic. I cried because I know how awesome Max is, but some people look at him and feel mostly pity. I cried because he deserves to be an equal member of society, but he's not always treated as such.

The video of Emma getting her doll with a prosthetic leg had 32 million views last time I looked. You could walk away from it full of feels and be so glad that Emma got the special doll, that she had parents who thought to give it to her and that there are companies like A Step Ahead Prosthetics that make limb-different dolls, then get on with your life. It could be as relevant to you as any of the kajillion other heartwarming viral videos you've seen about puppies and babies and cat rescues, a fleeting feel-good thing.


You could remember this girl's reaction and the relief she felt to not feel so alone. And perhaps you could use the video as a kick-off point for a conversation with your child about kids with disabilities. You could ask your child why he or she thinks Emma cried the way she did, and how he or she thinks it feels to have a prosthetic leg. You could point out how children with disabilities love dolls—just like any other kid. You could note that they like to have friends and feel included, just like any other kid. You could talk about what's more alike than different. You could talk about everyone having their own abilities.

You can point out that all people are different and all people have challenges; some are just more visible than others. But every child and adult—whether they have a prosthetic leg or use a wheelchair or a walker, whether they speak in their own special way, whether they have trouble using their hands or they can't see or hear—would like to be treated the same as any other person.

Or, at the very least, you could remember this girl's reaction and the next time you come into contact with a child who has special needs, instead of wondering how to behave or not engaging, you could just say "hi." That child will feel good. You will, too.

Maybe, just maybe, this video could change people's reactions to children with disabilities. Maybe, just maybe, you could make a difference in the lives of children with special needs.

A mom can only hope. 

Image: Screen grab/Courtney Fletcher Bennett video


  1. Thank you for writing this. My son has a Prosthetic leg & Autism, and the stares and exclusion are constant. Because of his Autism he doesn't seem to notice or care, but my heart breaks every time.

  2. This video is beautiful, we can never truly know how it feels for our children. How emotionally raw x

  3. Hi Ellen!
    My name is Tara Millspaugh and I am the social media coordinator and blogger for Starlight Children's Foundation. We are a national nonprofit focusing on improving the lives of families and children living with health challenges.

    I'm reaching out to you because I'm looking to build relationships with influential bloggers. You have the ability of writing but also the experience of being a mother. I'm hoping we could share each others content. Also, I would love to work with you on eventually guest blogging and/or using you as future references in our blog.
    If this is of interest to you please get back to me at my email

    Hope to hear from you!


Thanks for sharing!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...