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Annie and Dan talk about MS

Alex James, whose mother has MS, reviews Annie and Dan talk about MS, a DVD produced by the Multiple Sclerosis Society. The DVD is free to download or order from

Produced by the MS Society, Annie and Dan talk about MS is a new DVD using puppets, aimed at children under 10 to provide answers and explanations for the many issues involved with multiple sclerosis (MS).

The DVD is divided into three sections, each of which is about five minutes in length. They are entitled ‘Introducing MS’, ‘What happens in MS’ and ‘What happens in a relapse’. Part one starts with Dan telling his friend Annie that his mum has just come back from the hospital having been diagnosed with MS. Annie, announcing that her father also has MS, goes on to provide answers to Dan's many questions.

Explanations of complex and potentially confusing medical facts are explained in simple, child-friendly language and easily digestible metaphors. For example, the nervous system is compared to electric cables running through the body while the myelin sheath is the insulation which, when lacking, stops the cables working properly.

The DVD does not shy away from covering pertinent questions that children may have as Dan worries that his mother's condition is his fault and questions Annie as to whether one can die from it. Although the covering of these often poignant topics is undeniably to its credit, after ‘Introducing MS’ the overall purpose of the DVD became clear. It is primarily for children whose parents have multiple sclerosis, and it is suggested that children and parents watch together. Perhaps it may be difficult for some parents to explain the implications of MS to a young child and this DVD may help them to find the right words, prompting further discussion between children and parents.

‘What happens in MS’ covers the more practical side of multiple sclerosis and focuses initially on what life is like with MS. It also serves to instil empathy in children at an age when the concept itself may be difficult for them to grasp, let alone to fully appreciate how their parents may be feeling. This is continued throughout the section with a further focus on how Dan can help his mother. I think it is helpful for children to hear from the puppets the responses to questions raised in this section. Children watching may have more understanding of their parents condition and therefore have a more positive sense of what they can do in their own way to help.

Part three continues in a similar vein and seeks to explain what happens during a relapse — both from a medical perspective and describing how their parents may feel and act.

Stylistically, Annie and Dan talk about MS seems perfectly pitched at its intended audience. Annie and Dan's world is bold and bright, and the puppets themselves seem well designed to be comparable to characters that children might encounter on television. Each section, although full of information, is relatively short and unlikely to challenge a child's attention span.

Importantly, the DVD excels in providing all the information that a child could wish to know without ever patronising them or over-simplifying the topics. Answers provided are honest and straightforward yet children will undoubtedly feel reassured. If watched by children and parents together, with full use being made of the discussion breaks between topics, Annie and Dan talk about MS is a child's perfect introduction to the condition.

First published DPPI Journal, Issue 63: Autumn 2008


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