The American Girl doll company, a toy industry leader in diversity and inclusion, celebrated 2020 with the debut of their first-ever doll with hearing loss. The hugely popular doll brand, owned by the Mattel company, tapped a team of hearing experts and hearing-impaired representatives to create a character and doll with an accurately-depicted hearing impairment.

Named Joss Kendrick, the new American Girl doll is a dynamic new addition to the brand’s lineup – and a long-awaited symbol of inclusivity for the hearing-impaired community.

A Brand with a History of Diversity and Inclusion

For more than three decades, the American Girl doll company has strived for diversity and inclusion in their beloved collection of dolls. The brand has created dolls with an extensive variety of ethnicities, faiths, social classes, and time periods of origin, as well as characters in a range of skin tones, eye and hair colors. Beginning in 2012, American Girl began selling new accessories for their dolls, including hearing aids, glasses, a wheelchair, and a service-dog set.

However, 2020 marks the arrival of the company’s inaugural doll with a hearing impairment. A spokesperson for the brand noted that with the striking commonality of hearing loss in children, the hope was that the character of Joss Kendrick would inspire a new level of understanding, respect, and representation for those with hearing impairment.

Joss Kendrick: Confident, Active, and Hearing-Impaired

Joss Kendrick may be a character with hearing loss, but that’s only one part of her identity and story. Her first book doesn’t mention her hearing impairment until several pages in, which was an intentional decision intended to show that hearing loss is just a single element of her life.

The story of Joss Kendrick explains that she was born with congenital hearing loss. She is deaf in her left ear, but with a hearing aid, has some hearing in her right ear. Joss uses a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid with an earmold, a piece that was specifically selected due to its widespread use with children.

Despite her hearing loss, Joss lives a life full of everyday adventures and fun. She’s an avid competitive surfer and cheerleader with a delightfully positive approach to life. Like all of us, she faces her own unique challenges, but Joss shows that hearing impairment does not limit her dreams.

Creating the First Hearing-Impaired American Girl Doll

When the American Girl doll company set out to create the character of Joss Kendrick, it was important to them that she be an accurate representation of a young person with hearing loss. So, they consulted with a team of advisors, utilizing their expertise in the development of both the character and her storyline. Crystal DaSilva, the 2009 women’s shortboard champion at the World Deaf Surfing Championship was one such advisor, as was educational audiologist Jennifer Richardson.

American Girl also spent time researching various hearing loss organizations, specifically connecting with the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). The doll brand provided a $25,000 donation to the organization, as well as Joss dolls and books for Walk4Hearing events across the country.

Exemplifying the Spirit of Inclusivity Through Play For millions of children, hearing loss is a reality of everyday life. Hearing impairment affects nearly 15 percent of American children aged 6 to 19, and a surprising 90 percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents. And despite the resources and communities available for children with hearing loss, there is still considerable ground to be covered in terms of inclusivity – which is what makes the Joss Kendrick doll such a welcome arrival.

For the young children and teens with hearing impairment, seeing an accurate representation of themselves in easily-accessible play materials is invaluable. Through her the Joss Kendrick American Girl doll, a wonderfully relatable, educational, and positive play experience is put within easy reach of hearing-impaired and hearing children alike.

Learn More about Childhood Hearing Loss at Memorial Hearing

For so many parents, navigating the experience of supporting a hearing-impaired child is uncharted territory. About two to three children out of every 1,000 born in the United States with measurable hearing loss in one of both ears, leading countless parents and caregivers to become passionately dedicated to education and advocacy.

And while introducing inclusive play materials into your child’s life can make an incredibly positive impact, working with an experienced pediatric audiologist is vital in providing the care and support they need.

At Memorial Hearing, our Houston hearing specialists are here to evaluate, diagnose, and treat hearing loss in children. Whether your child has a diagnosed hearing impairment or you suspect they are displaying signs of hearing loss, the Memorial Hearing pediatric audiologists can help.

Learn more about how to tell if your child has hearing loss by scheduling a pediatric consultation at our Houston audiologist office today. Call (832) 981-5062 with any questions or to schedule an appointment.

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