Woman Brings Children with Disabilities and Differences Joy with Dolls Like Me
For many children with any disabilities or differences, they will very likely never see themselves represented in toys.
A former pediatric oncology social worker named Amy Jandrisevits noticed this issue when she worked with kids. On her GoFundMe page, Jandrisevits explained she worked with young cancer patients and used dolls for play therapy. Each doll had healthy-looking bodies with heads full of hair, completely different to the children playing with them. It didn’t sit right with her.
After that job, Jandrisevits decided to make dolls. One friend approached and asked if she could make a doll of their transgender child who was transitioning at the time. The former social worker agreed, and the delighted parent posted a photo of the finished toy on social media. That’s when Jandrisevits realized the demand for custom dolls was high.
After seeing the photos online, Jandrisevits started getting many requests from parents asking if she could make dolls for their children. So, she started Dolls Like Me.
Dolls Like Me are customized, handmade dolls from start to finish. Jandrisevits spends long hours looking at the children’s pictures to make sure each toy captures them correctly. Presently, she has made about 300 dolls and her email is filled with requests for more.
“It is a really hard sell to tell a kid, ‘You are perfect the way you are,’ and to build self-esteem that way but never offer them anything that looks like them,” she said. “We are going to change the story.”
The children adore their unique dolls. In one video, a little girl clutches the gift and cries from happiness. In another, a child is jumping around the room from joy.
Many parents share the stories online about the dolls’ impact. The mother of a son with an underdeveloped hand described how he immediately noticed the similarities. “The little guy said, ‘My doll has a baby hand and I have a baby hand. My doll has a big hand and I have a big hand,’” she said. “He can look into the face of his doll and see that it is OK.”
Jandrisevits is stunned by the dolls’ popularity, but is happy that they are making a difference.
“On a bigger scale it tells you how desperate we are for representation,” she said. “I’m changing the narrative one person at a time.”
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