12 Feb Using Storytelling to Help Children Understand Dementia
Today we have a guest post from The Ally Bally Bee project. Dementia is something that affects many families and can be difficult for children to understand. Read on to find out about this great project helping younger family members understand why their beloved elders sometimes do strange things through personalised books.
Sometimes Granny doesn’t remember my name. It’s like hundreds of names are spinning around in her head and she just picks one. She does unusual things too. She gets lost in her own house and pours orange juice on her cereal. What’s wrong with Granny?
These are some of the questions a child may struggle with when a loved one is living with dementia. So how do you explain the condition to a young child? The Ally Bally Bee Project, run by Scottish family team Matthew Adams, Nina Äikäs, wee Lana and baby Maya, aims to ease distress for children and families affected by dementia while also raising money for national and international dementia charities.
The Ally Bally Bee Project was set up three years ago and creates personalised books for young children. The condition can create challenging situations for families and social groups, and it can be hard to know how much to explain to children and young people. Each book is unique, and uses the names of the child and the family member living with dementia, as well as examples of their specific behaviours; all with the aim of explaining why they have changed.
“Whilst it’s natural to want to protect children, it’s important to be honest and explain things calmly,” says Matthew Adams, founder of The Ally Bally Bee project. “Dementia affects every family differently, which is why we have created a personalised children’s book that is unique to every family’s situation and is designed to make these conversations a little bit easier.”
Matthew explains: “My wife’s grandmother had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her 90’s and I recall one evening, sitting around the table with the family, discussing the way her gran had been acting and the things she had been saying. It was tricky enough for us adults to make sense of – so how would a child understand it? It got me thinking: how would I explain granny’s dementia to my young daughter?”
The world’s first and only personalised book about dementia was illustrated by university student Daisy Wilson and written by children’s author Elvira Ashby. The story took 12 months to develop, with involvement from both people living with dementia, and medical professionals along the way.
Throughout the story, the child journeys through their loved one’s brain. Accompanied by ‘Super Doc’, children learn about the different lobes of the brain, how the dementia affects that area and how it affects the person’s behaviour. For example, the hippocampus is depicted as a room full of memory jars of all shapes and sizes, but the dementia has knocked some of the jars over making it tricky for Granny or Grandpa to find the right memory.
Project founder Matthew said: “Despite the tragic nature of the illness, the relationship between the child and the person living with dementia can still be tender, so we wanted to explain dementia in a way that’s relevant: whether Granny is pouring orange juice on her cereal or Uncle John gets lost in the supermarket, because everyone has a different story to tell.”
After successfully raising more than £10,000 through a Kickstarter campaign in 2017, the book is now available to buy online – and can be delivered anywhere in the world. With around 47 million people living with dementia worldwide, The Ally Bally Bee Project plans to offer translated versions of their book too. The team also hope to explore other difficult subjects for future books – such as mental health, autism and cancer. Books that can be made by you in minutes but loved by them for life. Give it a go yourself – create your book today and preview the first two pages at www.allyballybee.org
“Dementia affects every family differently – which is why we wanted to create a children’s book that was relevant to your family’s situation.” Matthew Adams, Project Founder