Sophie Hooper Tūī Talks

  • Tauira / Student
    Sophie Hooper
  • Kaiako / Lecturers
    Antony Nevin, Annette O'Sullivan

We've all experienced those uncomfortable feelings of grief - shock, denial, hopelessness…but what if these were attached to a living experience that lasts a lifetime?

Children diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and their parents are sent home after diagnosis with limited knowledge of the condition and must contend with an overwhelming amount of new information in the form of pamphlets, loose photocopies and a large indigestible manual. I went into this process presuming that it would be predominantly child-focused support that was needed. However, I found through interviews with parents who have experienced their child being diagnosed with the condition, that actually most responsibility and emotional strain falls on the caregiver. Caregivers need information for the child‘s immediate survival in digestible chunks, and to then be guided through this in a user-friendly way.

‘Tūī Talks’ set out to provide a down-to-earth, user-friendly education system for families after a T1D diagnosis, facilitating moments of joy throughout this turbulent time period. It takes the form of a koha given to the family as they leave the hospital and includes an applique cloth bag containing a series of books (three for the child, and three corresponding ones for the parents), a soft toy ‘Toi’ (the Tūī mascot and narrator for the series) and stickers that encourage conversation between friends and classmates of the child regarding the condition.

Utilising comfortable pre-existing routines such as bedtime storytelling, the caregiver facilitates their child’s learning, affirming that they can be in control of the situation and establishing immediately that this is something that can be lived with and is not to be seen as a burden. What struck me during my research was the relief felt by parents when they discovered that actually, their child would live a completely fulfilling life – a concept I realised needed to be front and centre.

Joy and humour burst from the pages through the illustration and text so that children find that the previously unknown body parts have personality and approachability. Incorporating facial features and overlaying handmade textures (created by printing onto paper using a variety of materials and tools) allows for daunting concepts to be effortlessly digested.

Over the following weeks, the caregiver and child will read all three sets covering aspects such as ‘the basics’, ‘treatment’, and the ‘changes’ to life that the family can expect – all in a colourful, entertaining way that encourages instead of engendering fear, but also negates the uncertainty that comes with medical jargon.

The exciting thing is that ‘Tūī Talks’ doesn’t have to stop at Type 1 Diabetes; the visual system can be applied to many other medical conditions, promoting confidence and comprehension for learners of all ages.