Turning Hospital Fears into Positive Experiences

This series is designed to help parents manage specific aspects of bringing up a child with a different learning path. We’ll be looking at what parents, specialists and people with diabetes have to say about living with the condition.

We’d initially planned to cover the difficulties faced by diabetic children learning how to use needles on a daily basis. But kids with many conditions face a common fear of medical setting. So we spoke to Esther Wang, an entrepreneur and inventor, whose innovative approach to children’s health education is having an impact in hospitals around the world.

Explain Away the Fear

Esther Wang wanted to design a product that would answer this specific need expressed by hospitals in Singapore: when kids are brought into hospitals, they are usually scared. She started by immersing herself in hospitals and watching kids interact there.

Her first conclusion what that most of the fear stemmed from a lack of understanding of medical procedures. Children needed more than words and explanations, they needed an experiential approach. She started testing ways children could learn and understand the purpose of their visits. The challenge was to turn healthcare moments into experiential learning.

There was also another issue at hand: when children don’t understand medical procedures, they can feel hostility towards medical staff, or betrayed by their parents.  This needed to change. “Family ties should grow stronger through these experiences,” says Esther, not weaker. Similarly, it’s easier for medical practitioners to work with kids who understand they are all on the same team. They too, need to have a positive relationship with the child, albeit a very different bond.

Rabbit Ray pack

That’s how Rabbit Ray was conceived. Rabbit Ray is more than a blue plastic toy with health-related gadgets: it’s an invitation to play and learn. There’s a whole process of using Rabbit Ray that allows children to go from being passive and scared to willing and active participants in their care. And it’s simple.

How Rabbit Ray Works

Rabbit Ray is a cross between a doll and role play. Essentially, it is a doll: kids immediately reach out to play with the cool looking Rabbit. The sleek bunny opens up to reveal medical instruments which can be used on Ray to explain major medical acts. Vaccination, blood sampling, intravenous drips and more can be experimented directly on Ray. So he is a medical doll which doctors and nurses can use to explain what will happen to the child. They learn by watching medical acts performed on Ray.

The great power of dolls is that they can be used to role play. “When children are put into the position of injecting Rabbit Ray, they get to play the star and the medical person,” says Esther. This can lead to vital interactions. “Telling the child that Rabbit Ray is scared – like he might be -, helps the child empathise with the nurse or doctor.” So that when the child gets the same medical act performed on himself, he will find it easier to cooperate. Cooperating will feel like being part of a team, rather than passively subjecting to a scary event.

Kids playing with Rabbit Ray

Kids playing with Rabbit Ray

Last but not least, Rabbit Ray was designed for a variety of clinical scenarios – from emergency with a high volume of patients, to the quiet moments during a patient’s hospitalization. Explanations can be given in just one minute or turned into a 30-minute game. Moreover, Rabbit Ray is certified according to Europe Safety Standards and strict clinical infection control standards. Ray is easy to wipe down in record time, which helps for fast transitions.

Real Situations Rabbit Ray has Saved the Day

As we’d initially wanted to focus on diabetic kids who need to learn how to perform medical procedures on themselves, Esther talked us through the specifics. “The needle is very realistic, but it’s made out of a tiny straw“, she explained. “This means they can use it as a practice needle on themselves, as they learn to get comfortable.” In essence, children can practice how and where to inject themselves insulin, without the actual scary needle. “Touching the fake needle conveys a lot that words cannot.”

Rabbit Ray is also great for special needs kids. A special needs school in Singapore used Rabbit Ray to explain the upcoming vaccination campaign, and they were thrilled with the results. The children – juniors – were relaxed and happy, many of them even hugged the doll after the shots, and the headmistress intends to use Rabbit Ray all year long to explain health-related subjects. Generally speaking, Rabbit Ray’s multisensory approach could help children affected by conditions ranging from autism to sight loss.

Happy Nurses with their Rabbit Rays

Most often, Rabbit Ray is used 45 hospitals in 11 countries, mostly with children fighting cancer. The bunny is fun and uncomplicated. It helps ensure kids in hospitals stay just that: kids.

Esther Wang and the Joytingle team are recognised globally as the Global Winner of the Shell LiveWIRE Top Ten Innovators Award (2015). Now she hopes she will be able to bring this resolutely humane innovation to more kids all over the world.

Additional Links

Looking for some of our sources? Check them out. And send us more by commenting below: 

  • Rabbit Ray is available on Irisada, here.
  • Rabbit Ray on the web: here 
  • A short TV report by News Channel 7 WJHG.com.
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Funding Campaign – The Interstellar Board Game for the Blind

Every month we focus on parents bringing up a child with a different learning path. This month we’ll be looking at what parents and specialists have to say on raising children who are blind or have conditions related to vision impairments.

October 12th is International Sight Day, so at Irisada, we thought it would be a great month to highlight cool products and causes around blindness. We’re kicking off the October with a very special fundraising campaign to support Interstellar Fantasy Flight, a unique board game designed especially for blind kids. I interviewed the creator and designer of the game, Annie (佳芝), to learn more.

Stage 1: Early Years and The Realisation  

20901654_2071918266363334_2670588857863537285_oAnnie is currently a PhD student at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, majoring in Design. “I first got involved with blind children and their families in high school”, she says. “After I started volunteering, I gradually came to understand how being blind affected their lives and education.” She realised that blind children are missing out a seemingly small aspect of childhood: board games.

Yet from an educational and social point of view, they were losing much more than just the opportunity to play. As we’ve mentioned again and again and again, play is an integral part of learning. So Annie started applying her design knowledge to their specific needs. First she made a dice with bold braille numbers, which turned out well.

Then she realised that she could make a whole new game from scratch. So she set about creating something new, with two objectives in mind: 1) fun, of course, and 2) helping children acquire new skills. “At first I wondered if we should focus on the fun aspect, but their passion for knowledge touched us, and gave us the motivation to improve their education.”

Stage 2: Designing Interstellar Fantasy Flight 

Annie started working on a concept game to help blind children develop numerical skills: counting, adding, subtracting and other basic maths. “Contrary to seeing kids, they have less opportunity to familiarise themselves with these concepts, and more importantly, they can only access them through touching,” she says.

A brand new game was born: Interstellar Fantasy Flight

A brand new game was born: Interstellar Fantasy Flight

At the same time, Annie wanted the game to be social and inclusive. “We designed the game to be played with their parents and their seeing friends”, she says, “so that it creates a social moment all together.” It’s also based on a theme that all children can relate to, interspace and spaceships, which gets their imagination fired up, and is very cool to them.

So now you’re wondering: how does it work? The aim of the game is to build a space craft. To do so, each player needs to collect a certain number of ores, which are represented by different shaped pieces (round, square, pentagon etc.). To get each piece, they need to randomly pick a ball from a jar. The balls have numbers on them (in braille) and the kids then perform basic maths problems. Players take turns, and the first player to complete their space ship wins.

A glimpse of the space ships and ores

A glimpse of the spaceships and ores

“It took about eight months to make and test the game. We’ve tested it multiple times and about 30 people (seeing, blind, adult or child) have already played” Annie reflects. The tests take place in two Taiwanese schools for the visually impaired and so far the feedback from children and parents is very positive.

Stage 3: Production and Distribution

Interstellar Fantasy Flight is now ready to be produced and distributed. This is where Irisada and our readers come into play. We at Irisada are always on the look out for products that will appeal to children with different learning needs, and this game stood out.

We’ve teamed up with Annie to help her raise funds to pay for the first batch of production and to give the game to specialised schools and institutions in Taiwan. The game is also available to pre-order on our site. If you’d like to lend a hand, you can access the crowdfunding campaign here, and if you’d like to have your own game, you can pre-order it here.

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