The kit began with a petition from an 11-year-old girl with T1D who wanted a doll that looked "just like me."
An idea that began with an 11-year-old’s wish for a doll “that looked just like me” is winning rave reviews from parents and educators alike, as the American Girl company has just made a type 1 diabetes (T1D) care kit available online for girls who manage the disease.
The popular doll company, known for creating almost every possible combination of hair and eye color, lately has been creating add-on kits so that girls with medical conditions can have a doll that resembles them in every way. The type 1 diabetes package, which costs $24, was inspired by a petition from Anja Busse, now 13, who collected 4000 signatures before American Girl agreed to create the product.
The kit features an insulin pump, a blood sugar monitor, lancing device, an insulin pen for those not using the pump, glucose tablets, a medical bracelet, a log book, and a case for carrying supplies. And stickers, of course.
“American Girl has a long history of creating items that speak to diversity and inclusion, and the diabetes care kit is yet another way we are expanding in this important area,” Stephanie Spanos, a company spokeswoman, told the Los Angeles Times.
What might seem a small step is important at a time when T1D cases are increasing, but so is discrimination. As reported in The American Journal of Managed Care, the combination of more children with T1D and school budget cuts and caused schools nationwide to try to force children to move out of neighborhood schools to ones where a nurse is present. The American Diabetes Association reports that cases of discrimination abound despite clear mandates in the law that children with T1D must be accommodated.
Although the American Girl kit has only been available since January 1, 2016, parents and some educators have filled the page with comments and suggestions, most of them positive. Most see the kit as more than a toy—it’s an opportunity for their daughters with diabetes to feel accepted, to educate their friends, and to feel more willing to take care of themselves. Girls who are the target age for American Girl dolls and the kits—8 and older, given the size of the pieces—are learning to manage their own diabetes.
Among the online comments:
“We have owned American Girl dolls for about 16 years … and I am so impressed with the company for taking this step to make all our type 1 kids fell included.”
“This kit is also a great way my daughter can help teach her friends about her T1D without it being ‘sooo boring.’ “
“I am a nurse and appreciate all the health-themed accessories … AG could have made different choices regarding the items to be included. But I think they actually did a great job in identifying key elements. This is a wonderful set that can be used for both play and educational purposes.”
The CDC reports approximately 167,000 school-age children in the United States have T1D. No one is precisely sure why cases are increasing worldwide; research over the last decade has suggested there are likely multiple factors involved, from genetics to dietary changes to environmental shifts.