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Girl pleads for American Girl doll with a disability back story

There are many forms of disability. Some are quite visible, others less so. Many exist in something of a shadow world.

Medical science hasn't been able to penetrate the causes of so many of these conditions. Efforts to find treatments prove fruitless and the general population remains largely uneducated about the challenges and difficulties sufferers have to deal with. Elevating people's awareness throughout California and elsewhere is a never-ending struggle.

One 10-year-old girl's web-based effort in this latter regard is getting some significant attention lately, however.

Melissa Shang lives in Pennsylvania. She suffers from a condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It's a form of muscular dystrophy that tends to strike in childhood and can result in nerve and muscle damage that leads to eventual disability.

The nature of the condition is such that it may qualify a person with it for Social Security Disability benefits. Families of children with CMT may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income support. Learning what options exist is best done by consulting with an attorney.

In Melissa's case, CMT already prevents her from participating in physical activities with friends. But, like many young girls, she loves American Girl dolls because, as she says, they help her understand how it feels to be someone else.

Each year, a new American Girl doll is released. Each comes complete with its own back story that often tells how the character has overcome some sort of challenge. And now, Melissa and her older sister have launched an online drive to have Mattel, which owns the American Girl brand, to issue a doll with a disability.

As Melissa notes, there are many disabled American girls like her, overcoming challenges every day. She says having a doll in the ranks of the American Girl registry would help others understand what it's like to be her.

By New Year's, less than a week after launching, the site had registered more than 13,000 signatures.

Mattel hasn't committed to make Melissa's wish come true, but suggests it will take her idea seriously.

Source: CBS News, "Girl with muscular dystrophy petitions Mattel to release disabled American Girl doll," Alexander Trowbridge, Jan 2, 2014

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