American Girl is best known for its dolls that introduce girls to their historical counterparts or provide them with their own mini-me's, courtesy of the My American Girl line. But now the Wisconsin-based company is quietly expanding its reach with some new "special needs" items.
In 2012, American Girl introduced a service dog set, doll-sized hearing aids, dolls without hair, and-most surprisingly-an allergy-free lunch. These offerings join mainstay products like a wheelchair and eyeglasses that have been part of the American Girl line since the 1990s.
"There's a variety of different issues that girls are facing," says company spokesperson Julie Parks. "People have been really highly complimentary about the new products."
Parks says the dolls without hair have received the most media attention, especially since they are fully customizable with five different skin tones and multiple eye colors. And knowing that some hair-loss conditions are reversible or temporary, the company offers one free doll head replacement.
The hearing aids, which also have been well-received, are done the same way as an ear piercing and cost $14 for right ear, left ear, or both.
Although Parks says the company doesn't have any definite plans for additional special needs items, American Girl constantly is exploring new options that reflect the lives of its young customers.
"By creating a doll without hair or with a hearing aid, we're just providing more options for a girl to create a doll that's as unique as she is."
Elizabeth Diffin is the associate editor at Chicago Parent. She lives in Wheaton.
See more of Elizabeth's stories here.