Real care and reborn babies a step in the right direction for people with disabilities

Hi everyone,

As I said before part of my recent doll phase is about accessibility for people with disabilities. The first part is the disabled dolls which I went over yesterday.

When I googled electronic dolls this link came up

So people know the Baby think it over, or now called Real Care babies are made by a company called Reality Works.

A long time ago when kids took sex ed class they had to carry an egg or a bag of flour for a week. To somehow simulate the responsibility of caring for a baby. Really dumb! Like just totally stupid.

This doll, while by no means perfect, is a good step in the right direction. It’s actually pretty high tech. The teacher programs the dolls so that the kids can’t shut it off at all. It’s programmed to cry randomly throughout the day and night for care. It can cry for things like feeding, diaper changing, rocking, or fussy crying and being unable to calm it down.

There are sensors throughout it’s body that you put a key to and it beeps to let you know you’ve done it right. And sensors that register motion. To change the diapers there are two with a different color square on each and it senses when each one is switched out.

A whole program comes with the doll talking about all of this, as well as things like what clothes you put your baby in for what kind of weather ETC.

It’s supposed to teach teens the responsibility of having a baby. I haven’t done extensive research on this but heard when asking about it in an FB group that there was a study talked about on NPR. That said that kids who’s schools did the program were actually more likely to become young parents. I don’t know why this backfired. But as a real life story one of the women in the group remembers the program being done at her school and four girls that participated. I think all of them had kids at around 19 or twenty, and multiple kids by late twenties.

Someone said it could be that the program actually gives the teens confidence on how to take care of a baby.

People pointed out of course that the best experience is real life. DSomeone’s school had a daycare attached and teens would work there. We did too. A preschool. And kids who took a child development class got to work there for a semester.

Someone else pointed out (one of the people from the bag of flour model) that when he was growing up, he’s an older guy with grandkids, families were closer and kids had experience with babies and young children from a very young age. They naturally learned everything they needed to know. Whether this translated into actual common sense or effected their decisions around being young parents I don’t know.

He said now families are spread out and have “1.8 kids” LOL, and so a bag of flour or a doll is better than nothing.

I tend to agree. However I’m looking at the doll in a different way. It’s safe to say people with disabilities, in general, don’t have as much experience around infants and young children as nondisabled people. Which is truly truly sad. On that same FB group two women said their school had the program but the teacher refused to give the girls a baby! They were afraid they’d break it or couldn’t do it. What a horrible message that sends. Sorry I don’t even trust you to handle a doll. Or you have a disability how could you be a parent anyway?

Though now it’s against the law to take a child away from its parents solely based on their disability. Supposedly. With the trouble I’ve been having getting service providers to work with someone intitled to services with an additional disability (which is also by the way called discrimination and against the law,) I’m not so trusting about the reality of what is and isn’t protected under the law with this population.

So in theory it’s against the law. But in practice, you don’t hear about very many programs for parents with disabilities. My awesome friend who recently passed away, Lavonnya was a disabled parent. She and her boyfriend and friends somehow made it work. Whether they had social services at their door I don’t know. In Cathy Glass’s book Can I Let you Go? Cathy looks after a young adult with FASD. When she wants to keep her baby the plan was to have her stay in a mother and baby unit, one with nondisabled mothers, and she’d only get support for about two years. Though Cathy and her family and social services and the girl tried their best, she ended up deciding that there was no way she could manage the responsibility and gave her baby up for adoption. Some say this was the right decision all along and were frustrated with Cathy and social services for even allowing her to try. But I finished that book filled with anger and sorrow for the family I strongly feel could have been had the right services been in place. In an environment of her true peers, other parents with disabilities, I believed this woman could have thrived and grown confidence because others in her exact set of circumstances were doing it and making it work. With periodic and long term support, whatever that looked like, weekly case management even someone coming daily for several hours, I believe it could have happened. But the funding isn’t there because again if you can’t trust someone with a doll you obviously don’t think there’s a need for such a program.

A huge part of many day programs, for developmental disabilities, mental illness, and perhaps others is around daily life, relationships taking care of yourself ETC. Why not use the realcare babies as part of that. As a way to just on a basic level talk about childcare. There might be people with the desire to have children or at least work with children. Which I feel should be encouraged and accomidated within the person’s limits and of course safety of everyone. It could teach a sense of responsibility for something other than yourself, , some people with certain disabilities are held back from even having a pet and this could be a good start. It could teach nurturing and the rewards of caring for something totally vulnerable and dependent and watching it go from a state of upset/ distress to calm and happy because of something the person did.

So I believe these dolls can be an educational resource in a new and creative way.

If this were to happen I feel the design/ programming would need to be a bit altered to account for various disabilities. For example the one thing I know is not accessible to a blind person would be the programmer box. It does beep when you press the buttons and as I said before, when you turn the key. All they would have to do, and it’s not a stretch with current technology is put in voice guidance software so that the whole thing would be able to have instructions spoken. But of course it would also be locked if the babies were a part of an actual program. So that people couldn’t actually shut it off. But in general this function I feel would be necessary. As well as phonts/ color contrast for the screen. I’m not sure what would need to be changed so that it was accessible to the deaf. It does have flashing lights for different things. I would assume vibrating when it cries for care to alert the person.

The doll and everything that comes with it, bottle ETC would need to be easy to hold for those with physical disabilities and a part of the program added in about creative ways to handle physical challenges around care.

For people with developmental or neurological disabilities perhaps the changes would take place not on the doll itself but in how instructions are given and the program is taught. It could be tailored to their level of understanding and perhaps be taught at a speed they could process.

I feel these changes would be easy to make and that if one program did it others would follow. If one person with a disability got to experience how to hold a baby, and then later say had the confidence to hold a family or friend’s baby and be able to experience that sense of joy and connection it would be worth it. Furthermore, if people like the person in Cathy’s book got to raise their own children in a way that works for them that would be like a million dollars worth it!

I don’t know much about reborn. Except that thety’re very expensive and popular in the last couple years. Here’s a site on them.

They’re apparently beautifully made so also cost hundreds of dollars. They look and feel like a real baby. So could be good for having a quieter example of how to hold change and feed a baby without the added feedback of crying, at first, so that things are learned on something even more forgiving to mistakes than the real care dolls.

I don’t want children of my own. More and more though I am thinking about wanting to somehow volunteer/ work with children and adults with various special needs. I’d love to be able to go babysit with Jess, who was a pretty awesome babysitter years back, and just help out. But I’m worried I would be discouraged from the babysitting course. Or even at an organization for people with disabilities, be discouraged from working with children there. People say oh that couldn’t happen! Well so far we haven’t found an animal shelter that will let me near their cats. It’s horrible but as I said above I’m very sensitive to the ways that people say those with disabilities are protected, and then how they actually are not.

In the mean time I want to continue to explore this topic around the dolls and creative ways to use them. I really want to get a doll for myself. But they are several hundreds of dollars on ebay. And Reality works it turns out doesn’t sell the dolls to individuals only to organizations. I suppose I could write saying I’m representing Albany care LOL! But the money issue would still be the same.

So we’ll have to see. Meanwhile would love to talk with others who feel similarly and perhaps I can get one for a discount or something.


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