Today, the retailer introduced its My Life As Autism Advocate doll, an 18-inch “companion for the kids who want to help others learn how to be kind, patient, and supportive of everyone.” Geared toward kids ages 5 and up, the My Life As Autism Advocate doll comes dressed in a red vest, gray T-shirt, and a denim ruffle skirt. Accessories include rubber bracelets, a toy cell phone, a fidget spinner, a beanie cap, and a pair of headphones.
The Toy Insider spoke with Walmart’s Senior Product Development and Sourcing Manager — Toys Angelina Princivalli and Senior Toy Buyer Lisa Bowman to learn more about the expansion of the My Life As line.
“My Life As strives to create dolls that represent empowerment, diversity, and inclusion,” Princivalli says. “A few years ago, we introduced a My Life As Gymnast with a prosthetic leg. We were touched by the number of responses we received from the public and how much it meant to have a positive representation in the 18-inch doll category.”
The debut of the Gymnast doll set the stage for other new dolls in the My Life As collection, including a Survivor doll inspired by kids who have battled cancer.
“As we looked to further evolve our dolls, we learned that approximately one in every 285 children will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday,” Bowman says. “Understanding the tough battle these young children face we felt that they needed a positive doll that helped them get through a difficult time. The response to our Survivor doll was immediate. Not only did we receive countless responses from children and parents facing this battle, but we also became aware of an organization in Ireland that spearheaded the purchase and delivery of hundreds of survivor dolls to children in Ireland who are fighting cancer.”
Over the past two years, the Walmart design team worked to develop its Autism Advocate doll.
“We recognized there was a need for a doll that connected with the autistic community,” Princivalli says. “We wanted to provide autistic kids and kids with autistic siblings and friends a doll that represented them. The development of the doll took two years with extensive research to ensure the doll was just right. We spoke with an autism therapist as well as multiple individuals within the autistic community to gain additional knowledge and insight to help the development of the doll. Our hope is that the Autism Advocate doll helps spread awareness and acceptance for children with autism.”
Girl versions of the My Life As Autism Advocate doll are available to preorder at walmart.com. The dolls are expected to arrive in stores on or around Jan. 18. A boy version of the doll is slated to arrive at a later date.