New Barbie doll with Down syndrome is sign of inclusion, acceptance for local families

Local families in the Tampa Bay area are celebrating the announcement of a new Barbie doll with Down syndrome this week. 

"They swim, they ride bikes, they do all the fun things that all your average children do," said Melanie Link, whose daughter was born with Down syndrome. 

Link said Mattel's announcement of a new Barbie with Down syndrome is more than just a new toy – it's an important sign of acceptance and inclusion.

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"They’re bringing more people together and accepting, so I think it’s a good sign they’re acknowledging the Down syndrome population," she said. 

"My reaction was wow, about time!" said Craig Woodard Sr., the president of the Down Syndrome Association of Tampa Bay, which is a support group for families. 

Mattel said it worked closely with the National Down Syndrome Society in creating the new doll. It features a new face sculpt, a shorter frame and a longer torso. The doll also wears pink orthotics based on real supports worn by some children with Down syndrome.

"Something that the kids play with and see every day they know that this object in front of me, looks like me and I can identify that, it makes them more comfortable in their skin as they get older," Woodard Sr. said.

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And in a world that isn't always as accepting as it should be, some parents said this is a step in the right direction. 

"I think it'll be a good thing, it'll bring some conversation to the table," said Link. 

The new Barbie with Down syndrome is part of the Fall Fashionistas line-up. It's available online now and should be in major stores in the summer and fall.