'Disability Dolls' Gain Popularity Despite Some Criticism

For Helga Parks, toying around is not just a pastime, it is a calling.

Years ago in Germany the doll maker watched as her niece Angela was given a doll created with the features of a person with Down syndrome. "This is me," she recalled the girl saying, the Times of London reported.

"It made me realize how important toys like this are to help build self-esteem for kids with Down's," she told the Times.

Far from Barbies and Bratz, Parks’ creations cater to children suffering from diseases such as Down syndrome and cancer, giving them a toy that reflects who they are, the paper reported.

From an anatomical teddy used in explaining medical procedures to ill children to a doll with ports for chemotherapy treatment, the toys have caught on around the world, with customers in Europe, Australia, South America and Saudi Arabia, the Times reported.

But not everyone agrees the dolls are a good idea.

Jenni Smith, a chartered educational psychologist in London, told the Times: "I feel that children who have disabilities, including children with Down's syndrome, tend to see themselves as 'like everyone else' and to offer a toy that 'looks like them' may only emphasize the difference."

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.