Hayden Geraghty was largely non-verbal until he watched Tim Peake take off for the International Space Centre in December 2015.
The Lottie Doll figure – which has been created in honour of Hayden and his transformation – wears blue astronaut overalls plus ear defenders and sunglasses, to cope with light and sound sensitivity. ‘Mini Hayden’, officially called Finn Boy Doll, also has a service dog to help him cope with difficult situations, and communication cards to help him chat with his friends.
The doll, which retails at £28.50, also wears a T-shirt which reads ‘Tesla, Einstein & Me’, a nod to genius scientists Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, believed to be on the autistic spectrum. It will be on sale in over 30 countries within the coming year.
Hayden, who is obsessed with space travel, was largely non-verbal until he watched Tim Peake take off for the International Space Centre in December 2015, when he was overheard shouting the NASA countdown sequence at the television. It was one of the first times his mum, Caroline, had heard him say a full sentence, and it triggered a rapid increase in his language skills.
Caroline said she knew Hayden was ‘different’ from around 10 months old because he wasn’t meeting common milestones or making eye contact. After battling with doctors for years, he was eventually diagnosed with autism aged five. Hayden sent astronaut Dr Niamh Shaw a painting of Mars, who got in touch with the CEO of Lottie Dolls, Ian Harkin, to tell them about Hayden.
Hayden was sent three Lottie Dolls, and when he realised there wasn’t yet an autistic doll in the range he wrote to Ian. He and his mum Caroline met with Ian in February 2018, and seven months later Finn Boy Doll was launched in the UK and Ireland.
Ian said: “By playing with a diverse set of dolls, kids develop empathy and understanding of kids with disabilities and additional needs, so it normalises behaviour. We want all kids to have a diverse toy box; it’s just as important for kids to see dolls that look like them as it is for other kids to learn about differences.”