Last month, American Girl launched a Diabetic Care Kit in response to a change.org petition from an eleven year-old girl who had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. In the petition, Anja Busse said, “I have type 1 diabetes and there are no accessories for my American Girl doll,” Anja wrote in the description. “I'm 11 and I just got diagnosed with diabetes a little over 3 months ago. I feel so different now and my whole life has been turned around. I want to have diabetic accessories for my American Girl doll so she is just like me. I just want everyone to feel good about themselves no matter if they have something ‘wrong with them.' Whether they have a disability, blindness, deaf, diabetes, and so much more!” (I applaud this girl for her insight)
American Girl responded with the launch of the kit. In the past, the company has promoted inclusiveness for those with disabilities with a wheelchair, hearing aids, service dogs and most recently arm crutches. However, all of these have one thing in common; you can see the disability. The Diabetic Care Kit is the first accessory for an invisible illness and I'm hoping that it not only helps girls like Anja to feel included, that it will help educate the public about type 1 diabetes. Here's the problem though. There's a lot of misinformation out there about Type 1 diabetes.
Last week a friend who happens to have type 1 posted this article on my Facebook wall. It seems like Natural News posted a blog called American Girls dolls now come with ‘diabetic accessories,' as poor diets leading to obesity and metabolic disorders in children is accepted as normal. It went on to say that “American people have been so utterly brainwashed by the pharmaceutical complex, they have no idea type 1 diabetes has a cause and isn't the result of ‘spontaneous disease'.” As I read that my jaw dropped.
Although complications from it can be prevented through careful monitoring of blood sugar and diet and children that are treated can lead normal lives. Type 2 Diabetes (which I assume the Natural News blog is really referencing since they keep toggling back-and-forth in between the two) is preventable. According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2009 there are 18,436 children with type 1 diabetes, and 5,089 children with type 2 diabetes diagnosed annually. What does that mean? Over 2/3 if all children diagnosed did absolutely nothing to get the disease except lose the genetic lottery. Inferring that the American Girl Diabetes Kit glamorizes this disease in any way is infuriating.
The blog goes on to say that, “What makes this all the more sad is that by accepting diabetes as normal, children are left with the false impression that they are doomed to a life of painful pricks and blood samplings (this time they are referencing type 2 but how can the reader tell)”. Here's the thing. If you have Type 1 Diabetes, you are doomed to a life of painful pricks and blood samplings. Our dance friends that have type 1 are blessed to have insulin pumps but they still have to check their sugars all day long because if they don't they can cause heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems when they're older. While kids with type 2 can try to lose weight, change their diet and exercise to control their disease, their Type 1 counterparts cannot. Their bodies can't produce enough insulin. Period.
I applaud American Girl for launching their kit. It's hard enough to have an invisible illness and feel different from your peers. It's also often difficult to explain what's going on with your body and why you have to go to the nurse at school throughout the day. I hope that there are lots of little girls out there with type 1 that will play with the kit with their friends. Hopefully, this will bring awareness and understanding to a disease that can be so misunderstood.
As for the Natural News site, get your story straight. Your blog not only has incorrect facts and opinions about type 1 diabetes like this: “Those who don't think type 1 diabetes can be in many cases controlled or entirely prevented are wildly ignorant of all the advances in holistic medicine and the extraordinary research revealing the chemical causes of autoimmune disorders. For those people, we pray that they may be enlightened before their own children are made victims by vaccines.” (For the record, I am also pro-vax. I am not even getting started on that last comment). It's written in a way that confuses the reader. I hate for a parent to read your post and tell their kid that their friend at school “isn't really sick” or “did this to themselves.” Kids are cruel enough already.
Now, if we can only get the American Girl migraine kit….
If you're looking for resources to teach your kids about type 1 diabetes or their friends, here you go.