- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2001

Diabetes has been attacking people since at least 1500 B.C., when it was described in a prescription written by an Egyptian physician.

Today, Type 1 diabetes primarily affects youngsters 35 are diagnosed with the disease each day creating not only a more complicated life for the child, but also leaving parents with the challenge of explaining and monitoring a condition that involves blood testing six times a day, a strict diet and multiple injections.

Offering a ray of hope, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has spent the past 30 years looking for a cure to the disease, which ravages the pancreas and renders it unable to produce insulin.

One of the organization´s cyber-stops provides a haven for diabetic children that teaches them they are not alone in their struggles and features a wealth of information and inspiration for controlling the disease.

JDF Kids Online

Site address: www.jdrf.org/kids


The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, based in New York City, was founded by parents of children with juvenile diabetes. It has 116 chapters and affiliates worldwide. The site was developed with the help of designers Julie and Peter Mettenburg of Lawrence, Kan.

Creator quotable: "We created this site so that kids with Type 1 diabetes could learn more about their disease and learn new strategies of coping with their blood sugar levels and the stresses of diabetes. We also wanted to make it fun and to let kids know that they´re not alone, that there are other great kids out there with diabetes too," says Tommie Scanlon, national manager of online services for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Word from the Webwise:

A combination of education and diligence is the only way to keep Type 1 diabetes under control. The Web site explores both concepts brilliantly not only by flooding visitors with easy-to-understand information, but also by using role models, humor, photos and inspirational advice to explain the importance of following treatment schedules.

An opening page greets knowledge seekers with bright colors, highlights of current features (such as an interview with Kansas City Royals pitcher Dan Reichert, who was diagnosed with diabetes while playing minor league baseball in 1998) and section icons: "Countdown for Kids Magazine," "Learn About Diabetes," "Find a Friend," "Idea Zone," "Diabetes on the Go" and "Search for a Cure."

A good starting point is "Learn About Diabetes," which explains the inner workings of the disease and how to control it. The topics include blood sugar basics; a primer on insulin pumps with positives, negatives and advice from teen-agers; 25 ways to adapt to living with diabetes; and how to handle hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a craving for sweets, and bullies who feel the need to taunt.

The "Find a Friend" section shines with ways to meet new e-mail pals (strict guidelines are followed), a directory of diabetes camps and links to Web sites created by children learning to live with their condition.

Considering that much of the information has been culled from the quarterly hard-copy publication Countdown for Kids (visitors can get the magazine for a $25 donation) I suggest perusing the current online issue and archives. There you can find interviews with Miss America 1999 and Mary Tyler Moore, take a look at destructive patterns children sometimes slip into and read 70 other features.

The "Idea Zone" presents artistic creations from site visitors, such as Spencer, a boy from Colorado who depicts what diabetes will look like in the future, and a camp counselor´s skit offering a diabetes twist on "Romeo and Juliet." "Search for a Cure" investigates the latest findings and provides information on how to get involved in clinical experiments. "Diabetes on the Go" addresses everyday issues facing diabetic children, including exercise regimens, school attendance and summer trips.

Those wishing to help are encouraged to urge legislators to meet JDRF International Chairman Mary Tyler Moore and 200 children with juvenile diabetes when they converge on the nation´s capital June 24 through 27 to tell their stories and look for an increase in research funding. The JDRF Children´s Congress 2001 includes children from all 50 states, the District and Puerto Rico.

Ease of use:

JDF Kids Online works because of quick load times, an index of topics based on age groups and a constant stream of facts. A search engine and comprehensive site map would help with navigation, but children shouldnt be concerned with finding specifics quickly and should take time to absorb the sites information.

Dont miss:

Visitors can follow the "Adventures of Pump Boy" through a slick comic-book presentation in the "Learn About Diabetes" section. Illustrations chronicle the life of the hero as he attempts to eat a piece of birthday cake and conquer the ski slopes through careful exercise and monitoring of his insulin pump.

Family activity:

Older children can take part in a basic chemistry experiment found under the "Learn About Diabetes" banner. They also can learn how to tell the difference between sugar and salt without tasting, but with the help of a flame and saucepan. The site explains the chemical process involved in heating the substances and the corresponding results.

Cyber-sitter synopsis:

Children of all ages who suffer from diabetes can spend hours learning from the pages of this fantastic resource. (The site recommends that parents sit in with children younger than 8.)

Overall grade: A+

Remember: The information on the Internet is constantly changing. Please verify the advice on the site before you act to be sure it´s accurate and updated. Health sites, for example, should be discussed with your physician.

Have a cool site for the family? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at Webwise, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send an e-mail message ([email protected]).

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