I was watching the news recently whist on a business trip to Phoenix, USA when a story about children’s dolls, yes dolls, really caught my attention. But I should clarify at this point that these weren’t any old dolls, these were dolls with Type 1 Diabetes (T1D).
The International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) estimates that worldwide 495,100 children below 15 years of age are living with T1D; these children face the challenge of living with a complex, life-threatening chronic disease day in, day out.
It must sometimes feel overwhelming or all-encompassing for adults to deal with such a condition, but for children learning to deal with T1D from a young age, I can’t imagine how they might feel. Maybe scared or alone, or like they’re different to their friends or maybe they’re too young to really understand what it means for them.
A blood sugar monitor and lancing device so that the doll can check their blood sugar levels
An insulin pump that can be clipped to a doll’s waistband, plus adhesive patches to attach the cannula to the doll’s body
An insulin pen, for dolls that aren’t using the pump; the pen even clicks as you dial the doll’s dose
A medical ID bracelet
A log book so that the doll can record their insulin doses and sugar levels throughout the day
A special case for the supplies, plus an ID card
Stickers to add personalization
What struck me initially was how useful in a practical sense such a kit may be in helping young patients understand more about their condition or may be it could be used as a training tool to help educate children about diabetes. But perhaps the biggest impact on a child who has such a doll might be an emotional one because it could also help them feel as though they are not alone with their diabetes.
This is perhaps summed up best by the mother of 7-year-old who has one of the dolls, she told FOX 13 news that; “it’s no longer something that she feels alone about. It’s one thing to have friends with diabetes but it’s another thing to have a constant companion with diabetes. In our home she is the only one. I think it helps her to take care of herself because she is able to take care of her doll as well. She doesn’t feel so left out of things.”
Whilst researching for this blog post I also discovered that the American Girl company also produce toy crutches and hearing aids for their dolls as well as a food allergy kit complete with a toy Epinephrine injector.
If such toys serve as a tool to help children better understand and manage their respective conditions then great, but primarily I hope they allow children to do what they should be doing which is to play, to learn and to develop as confident and happy individuals irrespective of their diabetes.