Children with diabetes can learn from bear

  • Friendly learning: Jerry bears are aimed at helping children better understand how to control Type 1 diabetes

    Friendly learning: Jerry bears are aimed at helping children better understand how to control Type 1 diabetes

A group of children living with Type 1 diabetes were this weekend introduced to a new friend designed to help them manage their condition — Jerry the Bear.

Brought to the Island by endocrinologist Annabel Fountain of the Bermuda Hospitals Board, with the support of the Bermuda Diabetes Association, Jerry is an electronic teddy bear designed to help teach young people about how to control their diabetes.

Much like the children, Jerry has a blood glucose level which must be maintained through careful diet and insulin. Children can “feed” Jerry by rubbing food cards against his mouth, each of which has a certain number of dots indicating how many carbohydrates are in the food. They can then give Jerry insulin by tapping a plastic pen against certain sites, setting the dose size via a touch screen on his belly. Children can also complete various goals to unlock interactive storybooks.

Aaron Horowitz, who created Jerry with partner Hannah Chung, explained that by having the children take care of Jerry, they can better understand how to manage their own blood glucose levels.

“He works on the principle that by enabling them to take care of someone else it helps them understand why their parents are taking care of them and why they need to do what they do,” he said.

“We wanted to take this thing that’s really scary, diabetes, and make it a little bit fun and in doing so, giving something they want to engage with and want to take care of. If children start engaging in their own healthcare, it kind of helps set them up from a young age to build those foundational skills that they will need to practice for the rest of their lives.”

At a special event funded by the Bermuda Diabetes Association, several young diabetes patients and their siblings were given their own Jerrys by Mr Horowitz and Ms Chung, who donned bear suits for the occasion.

One mother, who asked not to be named, said there had been a sometimes challenging learning curve after her son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago. Watching her son and the other children play with the bears, she said: “I love it. I think it’s a great tool, especially if you are just finding out that you have diabetes. We do need a lot of help sometimes in the beginning trying to figure out carbs and insulin.”

Another mother said that when her son was diagnosed seven years ago, it changing their lives completely.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle,” she said. “At first it was pretty much about getting used to everything, which was pretty traumatising. At this point he knows exactly what he has to do, the amount of insulin that he needs to take, but he has challenges as far as accepting it every now and then. He wants to know why he can’t just be a regular kid like everyone else.”

Asked if she felt Jerry would be able to help other families adapt to Type 1 diabetes faster, she said: “Absolutely. If they feel obligated to work with him, then it pretty much forces the issue as to why they should take care of themselves. I think that’s awesome. That’s great.”

Mr Horowitz meanwhile said he was excited to see the children enjoying Jerry, saying: “It’s been super cool to see kids latch onto it. This is the most gratifying moment, to see people actually using it and smiling and laughing from something we created.”

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Published Nov 25, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated Nov 25, 2014 at 1:03 am)

Children with diabetes can learn from bear

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