Category Archives: Diabetes in school

Making it a better school year

back to school with diabetes

Going back to school is a daunting task at the best of times.

There are new clothes that they will outgrow next month.  School supplies will be purchased that will not quite match the requirements of their particular teacher but you won’t know that until after the first day. You will have to pay for three new pairs of running shoes because they can’t wear street shoes in the classroom and they can’t wear classroom shoes in the gym.

Those chores are stressful enough but if you have a child with diabetes, that is only the beginning of the worries. Next is what should I  put in their diabetes kit for school? Where will that kit be kept? What sort of information should we provide for the teacher this year? What can I expect the teachers to do? Will they inject my child? Will they monitor his testing? What if she goes low? Will anyone care? How will we cope with the bus? Will they give out treats in school? What will happen when my child is high/low during an exam?

The list of worries for a parent of a child with diabetes going to school goes on and on. I went through these stresses when my son was in preschool until his very last day of high school. It doesn’t get any easier.  The worries simply change.  In kindergarten you wonder who will help with her testing.  In their pre-teen years, you wonder if the teacher will help remind him to test.  In their teens, you worry that the teacher will think that she is playing with her phone when she tests.

Despite the fact that the worry is still there, I will tell you that the systems have improved.  We now have provinces (see British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador) with some sort of guidelines for dealing with children with diabetes entering their schools.  While there is often a need to specialize plans and meet with the school staff for your particular child’s needs, this is a huge leap forward from provinces with no basic guidelines.

In other provinces, where provincial policies have not yet been agreed upon, most boards offer individual policies that range from talking about diabetes as a medical condition in school to dealing with specific diabetes related issues.

For those living in the US, you don’t have to worry about state policies or even specific school board policies.  All children with diabetes are covered by the American Disabilities Act and as long as they are in a public school, should have a 504 plan in place dictating their diabetes care.

No matter where you live, it is important that you keep an open and honest dialogue going with your child’s school.  The majority of teachers in the education system are there because they truly care for kids.  This means that they want to help you in any way that they can.  Ensure that you have a meeting with staff to discuss your child’s needs, what you can do to help make things better and the role that you expect educators to play.  Remember that they are just people who will also be overwhelmed by diabetes care. Make things as simple as possible and check to see if your area has access to a nurse to assist with younger children’s care.

As your child grows and becomes more independent, it is important for teachers to understand the behaviours of high and low blood glucose levels.  You don’t want them suspecting that your child is drunk when they are low.  You also don’t want an altercation to take place because they are high.

Going back to school can be overwhelming.  Going back to school with a child with diabetes seem worse.  Make sure that you…

~plan ahead

~set meetings with school staff

~create 504 or individual care plans were available

~leave information for supply teachers

~be available for questions and concerns that will arise during the year

~enjoy another successful year for your child…the time really does go by in a flash!

 

For further reference see:

Going to school with diabetes 

Things to Remember when sending a Child With Diabetes To School

School Bill of Rights for Every Child with Diabetes

CDA Position statement on Students Living with Diabetes at School

JDRF Children with diabetes in school

A Monumental Day

Today is World Diabetes Day.  This day commemorates the birthday of one of the men responsible for my youngest son being alive today–Sir Frederick Banting.  This amazing Canadian was involved in providing us with an inject-able source of insulin–the first step on the journey to cure Type 1 diabetes.

Today is also the first time that my son is going to a diabetes clinic without his mother. Because of where he currently lives, it is not possible for me to travel to attend with him. He is going with his dad.  I received a text while he was in the office looking for some information. I had already been in contact with his new CDE and provided his basal rates and carb to insulin ratios.  The rest of the appointment is/was up to him.

While my son attending his first ever clinic appointment is a big deal for me, an even bigger deal is who my son will see today–on Sir Banting’s birthday.  He will sit and chat with the man who kept him alive on that March day many years ago when he was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

My son is returning to his first pediatrician.  This is the man who told me that the next 24 hours were critical and would tell if my son lived or died.  This is also the man who held my hand and kicked my butt to learn and gain confidence in dealing with this beast we call Type 1 diabetes.

I have said time and time again how hard it is having my children living far away from me. I have moaned and groaned about the challenges of having a teen living away and the many worries that come with that.  The best thing about his move however is this return to his doctor.

His doctor knows my son’s potential. He knows me. He has watched my son grow.  He has always encouraged my son’s independence.  He has also never been shy of telling either of us what he thought.

Today is World Diabetes Day.  Today marks the birth of the man who discovered insulin. Today also marks a full circle in my son’s diabetes care.  He began seeing this doctor as a toddler protected by his mother.  Today he sees him again as a growing young man stretching to find his way in an adult world.

world diabetes day

Thanksgiving Thank YOU!

Its Thanksgiving here in Canada already! I can’t believe it.  It seems like it was just Easter…or at least summer and now we are quickly moving into mid-fall.

This year there is no need to count carbs for dressing or worry about the impact of whip cream and pumpkin pie on bg levels.  Actually, this year there is not even a turkey.  In a blended family of five children, we had no one who would be available to eat with us so it’s a small chicken and dinner for two.  That is okay, we will make up for it another time I am sure.

We have been busy dealing with life, winterizing our cabin, winterizing the house, and many other details so Thanksgiving literally crept up on us without notice. Despite all of that, I still have many things to be thankful for today….

Amazing friends and family who continue to support me through the highs and lows of life.

Insulin that has kept my son alive for the past 13+ years.

The technology that continues to advance making our lives a little more flexible.

All of you who continue to read my ramblings, offer words of encouragement, and share yourselves with me.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!happy-thanksgiving to you

 

Changing of Roles

Today is the first day of school.  My son is starting grade 11 in a new school.
 
For the first time since he has been in school, I will not be sending a diabetes information package to school. I will not be emailing each teacher and giving them a heads up on what to expect. This year, my son has decided that he needs to take charge of his life and his diabetes care.
 
I am nervous…this is a step up from the pure terror that racked my body when he first told me of his decision.
 
This school is not unfamiliar with diabetes.  They had a student a few years prior who had diabetes as well.  The community knows of his condition so it will not be something new for his fellow classmates.
 
I will not however, be going in and asking that they know about Glucagon or finding a person who will be trained to use it. I will not be taking each teacher aside and drilling into them as much information as possible.  I will not be sending my usual package of information.  This is all for my son to share. It is up to him what he says or does not say.
 
I am confident that my son “can” take care of himself.  I have been training him for years.  He has shown in the past that he can’t always be bothered to do this but he swears that a magic wand has been waved over him and he has changed. I don’t believe this but I have to let him try no matter what. This is the hardest part of being a parent. Its like watching them learn to walk all over again but this time you can’t pad the furniture and make sure that they land on carpet.  You can only watch, pray, and hope for the best.
 
I will contact the school and remind them of my contact information. I will tell them that if they have any further questions about anything including diabetes that I am available.  That will be where it starts and ends.
 
Young adulthood arrived in our lives sooner than expected.  Its now time to adjust to the new roles and be there when I am needed only.This is going to be a tough road! first steps
 

Things to Remember when Sending a Child with Diabetes to School

back to school with diabetesIt’s that time of year again, the time that many parents look forward to and most parents of children with diabetes both anticipate and dread—Back To School!

For a parent, this is a time when we look forward to the return to routine, early mornings and school lunches.  We stare in shock at the number of clothes that no longer fit our offspring and cringe at the many new outfits and shoes that they require for the upcoming school year.

As parents of children with diabetes, we also begin to worry—will our children with diabetes be safe at school? Will our schools allow testing and injecting in the classroom? Will our children’s teachers understand the very real cognitive impairment that comes with highs and lows? Will someone use glucagon on our child if it is needed? Will our older children test and bolus around their peers? And the list of fears go on and on.

To help alleviate some of those fears, I asked parents to give me their top tips for sending a child with diabetes back to school.   I have since put them all together and have come up with the most important points to remember when sending a child with diabetes back to school…

Keep calm and be strong!   You are your child’s advocate.  You are your child’s protector but remember that most educators also love children.  They know how important your child is and will do as much as they can to help you and your child to feel safe in the classroom.

Do not go into meetings in attack mode. Remember to be calm, rational and offer credible arguments to any opposition to your requests. Often your school personnel know little or nothing about diabetes care.  Remember that you once were probably just as ignorant so be patient, educate and be willing to make compromises where it is reasonable.  You also have every right to stand your ground when the alternative will put your child in harm’s way.

Empower your child.  You cannot go to school every day with your child. (I tried once but the teacher kicked me out) It is therefore important that your child be aware of his/her rights and their responsibilities when it comes to diabetes care.

Ensure that your child knows what to do when a teacher impedes them looking after themselves (stops them from finishing their lunch, using the washroom when high, or having access to water for example).  If your child is responsible enough, he/she may carry their supplies with them at all times so that they have access to them in all classrooms and in the event of a lock-down.

Create and present a diabetes care plan or 504 plan for your child.  If you live in the United States and your child attends a publicly funded school, it is important that you put in place a 504 Plan which outlines the roles and responsibilities of the parents, student, and school. Sample plans can be found at www.childrenwithdiabetes.com as well as the ADA website, www.diabetes.org

If you live in a country (like Canada), without such laws to protect your child with diabetes in school, you may still create a care plan.  Often school boards will have their own plans that you can fill out or you can work with many online templates to create your own.

In either case, it is important that you outline the level of care required for your child, the accommodations that need to be made during exams for high or low bg levels, missed school because of diabetes related appointments, how to handle parties or events at school, what to do about school field trips, after school sports activities and more.  This document should note what is expected from the parents (ie. They will ensure that there are adequate supplies in the classroom), the student (ie. he/she will test before exams), and the teacher (ie.  The student will be supervised when low until back in range)

Educate, Educate, and provide information.  Take the time to set up a meeting with all staff who will be interacting with your child.  Ensure that they know what diabetes is as well as the signs and symptoms of highs and lows in your child.

Share a detailed booklet of diabetes care information for your child’s homeroom teacher.  Provide information on your child’s testing and injecting schedule, general information on the insulin pump and errors that could occur if your child is pumping, ensure that your emergency contact information is highlighted and easily available. Make sure that everyone is aware of policies on eating in the classroom or on the bus as well as whether the school will have someone trained to administer glucagon in an emergency situation.

Provide posters or flash cards that can be placed in the staff room as well as the classroom noting the signs and symptoms of highs and lows.  You may also wish a picture of your child posted in the staff room so that all staff are aware of your child and will not rush them out of a lunchroom or penalize them for being in a hall to get water when high.

Finally, if your child is willing, go into the classroom and present information to the students on diabetes and diabetes care. Knowledge is power.  When children learn to understand the realities of diabetes, they are often your best source of support for your child when you are away from them.

Be a Teacher’s Pet!  If you have the ability, volunteer with your child’s school.  Make yourself and your child visible to the staff. Help out at events or volunteer to chaperon field trips.  This can allow the staff to better know you and understand your concerns.  This can also help you to come to know the staff and feel safer about leaving your child when you aren’t around.

If you are not able to be at the school, reward good behavior! Remember to thank your child’s teacher for a job well done.  Provide thoughtful gifts at Christmas and year end to let them know you appreciate all they do when you are not around.

Don’t forget your supplies.  Make sure that you have a comprehensive list of supplies to send to school with your child as well as a system in place for refilling items as they are used. An emergency red box may be placed in the classroom with low supplies, syringes, spare test strips and batteries.  Depending on your child’s age, supplies may be left in other rooms, at the office or carried by the child.

Some of the items that you may wish to send to school can include:

  • Free snacks
  • water bottles
  • Spare insulin, test strips, infusion sets, site tape, batteries, syringes, glucometer, ketone strips, juice boxes, granola bars, Handi-snacks, hand wash, alcohol wipes, glucose tablets.
  • Spare clothes for younger children who may have bladder control issues when high
  • Cell phone to contact you if they are unsure of what to do with their care if an office phone is not readily accessible.

Send notes.  Make sure that you keep an open line of communication between yourself and your child’s teacher(s).  This can be done through emails or notes left in the child’s daily school planner.

Attach sticky notes to your child’s food noting the carb counts or exchanges on each item. This can help to ensure proper insulin to carbohydrate/food dosing for children of all ages.

Managing gym class.  Physical activity is important for everyone but it is especially important for people living with diabetes.  It is important for gym teachers to know that diabetes should not stop our children from taking part in events.  Your child should know to test before he/she starts any physical activity. Make sure that everyone knows the range that it is safe for your child to exercise in.  If your child is on a pump, you may wish to set a special “gym day” profile to reduce basal rates or perhaps you simply want to give the child 10 grams of carbohydrates before class to help them maintain their bg level during activity.

My final tip is the most important…Relax and have fun! School should be a time of fun, education, and friendships.  Diabetes can sometimes interfere and make things a challenge but do not let it stand in your way.  Remember that our children are children first and children with diabetes second.  Help them to learn to live with diabetes in the most positive way.  Work with staff in your child’s school so that everyone is comfortable and your child can get the very best out of their school year.

If you have a tip that I missed, please let me know! 

Things to Remember when sendng a child with diabetes to school

back to school with diabetesIt’s that time of year again, the time that many parents look forward to and most parents of children with diabetes both anticipate and dread—Back To School!
For a parent, this is a time when we look forward to the return to routine, early mornings and school lunches.  We stare in shock at the number of clothes that no longer fit our offspring and cringe at the many new outfits and shoes that they require for the upcoming school year.
As parents of children with diabetes, we also begin to worry—will our children with diabetes be safe at school? Will our schools allow testing and injecting in the classroom? Will our children’s teachers understand the very real cognitive impairment that comes with highs and lows? Will someone use glucagon on our child if it is needed? Will our older children test and bolus around their peers? And the list of fears go on and on.
To help alleviate some of those fears, I asked parents to give me their top tips for sending a child with diabetes back to school.   I have since put them all together and have come up with the most important points to remember when sending a child with diabetes back to school…
Keep calm and be strong!   You are your child’s advocate.  You are your child’s protector but remember that most educators also love children.  They know how important your child is and will do as much as they can to help you and your child to feel safe in the classroom.
Do not go into meetings in attack mode. Remember to be calm, rational and offer credible arguments to any opposition to your requests. Often your school personnel know little or nothing about diabetes care.  Remember that you once were probably just as ignorant so be patient, educate and be willing to make compromises where it is reasonable.  You also have every right to stand your ground when the alternative will put your child in harm’s way.
Empower your child.  You cannot go to school every day with your child. (I tried once but the teacher kicked me out) It is therefore important that your child be aware of his/her rights and their responsibilities when it comes to diabetes care.
Ensure that your child knows what to do when a teacher impedes them looking after themselves (stops them from finishing their lunch, using the washroom when high, or having access to water for example).  If your child is responsible enough, he/she may carry their supplies with them at all times so that they have access to them in all classrooms and in the event of a lock-down.
Create and present a diabetes care plan or 504 plan for your child.  If you live in the United States and your child attends a publicly funded school, it is important that you put in place a 504 Plan which outlines the roles and responsibilities of the parents, student, and school. Sample plans can be found at www.childrenwithdiabetes.com as well as the ADA website,www.diabetes.org
If you live in a country (like Canada), without such laws to protect your child with diabetes in school, you may still create a care plan.  Often school boards will have their own plans that you can fill out or you can work with many online templates to create your own.
In either case, it is important that you outline the level of care required for your child, the accommodations that need to be made during exams for high or low bg levels, missed school because of diabetes related appointments, how to handle parties or events at school, what to do about school field trips, after school sports activities and more.  This document should note what is expected from the parents (ie. They will ensure that there are adequate supplies in the classroom), the student (ie. he/she will test before exams), and the teacher (ie.  The student will be supervised when low until back in range)
Educate, Educate, and provide information.  Take the time to set up a meeting with all staff who will be interacting with your child.  Ensure that they know what diabetes is as well as the signs and symptoms of highs and lows in your child.
Share a detailed booklet of diabetes care information for your child’s homeroom teacher.  Provide information on your child’s testing and injecting schedule, general information on the insulin pump and errors that could occur if your child is pumping, ensure that your emergency contact information is highlighted and easily available. Make sure that everyone is aware of policies on eating in the classroom or on the bus as well as whether the school will have someone trained to administer glucagon in an emergency situation.
Provide posters or flash cards that can be placed in the staff room as well as the classroom noting the signs and symptoms of highs and lows.  You may also wish a picture of your childposted in the staff room so that all staff are aware of your child and will not rush them out of a lunchroom or penalize them for being in a hall to get water when high.
Finally, if your child is willing, go into the classroom and present information to the students on diabetes and diabetes care. Knowledge is power.  When children learn to understand the realities of diabetes, they are often your best source of support for your child when you are away from them.
Be a Teacher’s Pet!  If you have the ability, volunteer with your child’s school.  Make yourself and your child visible to the staff. Help out at events or volunteer to chaperon field trips.  This can allow the staff to better know you and understand your concerns.  This can also help you to come to know the staff and feel safer about leaving your child when you aren’t around.
If you are not able to be at the school, reward good behavior! Remember to thank your child’s teacher for a job well done.  Provide thoughtful gifts at Christmas and year end to let them know you appreciate all they do when you are not around.
Don’t forget your supplies.  Make sure that you have a comprehensive list of supplies to send to school with your child as well as a system in place for refilling items as they are used. An emergency red box may be placed in the classroom with low supplies, syringes, spare test strips and batteries.  Depending on your child’s age, supplies may be left in other rooms, at the office or carried by the child.
Some of the items that you may wish to send to school can include:
  • Free snacks
  • water bottles
  • Spare insulin, test strips, infusion sets, site tape, batteries, syringes, glucometer, ketone strips, juice boxes, granola bars, Handi-snacks, hand wash, alcohol wipes, glucose tablets.
  • Spare clothes for younger children who may have bladder control issues when high
  • Cell phone to contact you if they are unsure of what to do with their care if an office phone is not readily accessible.
Send notes.  Make sure that you keep an open line of communication between yourself and your child’s teacher(s).  This can be done through emails or notes left in the child’s daily school planner.
Attach sticky notes to your child’s food noting the carb counts or exchanges on each item. This can help to ensure proper insulin to carbohydrate/food dosing for children of all ages.
Managing gym class.  Physical activity is important for everyone but it is especially important for people living with diabetes.  It is important for gym teachers to know that diabetes should not stop our children from taking part in events.  Your child should know to test before he/she starts any physical activity. Make sure that everyone knows the range that it is safe for your child to exercise in.  If your child is on a pump, you may wish to set a special “gym day” profile to reduce basal rates or perhaps you simply want to give the child 10 grams of carbohydrates before class to help them maintain their bg level during activity.
My final tip is the most important…Relax and have fun! School should be a time of fun, education, and friendships.  Diabetes can sometimes interfere and make things a challenge but do not let it stand in your way.  Remember that our children are children first and children with diabetes second.  Help them to learn to live with diabetes in the most positive way.  Work with staff in your child’s school so that everyone is comfortable and your child can get the very best out of their school year.
If you have a tip that I missed, please let me know! 

I am not slack, I am warm and fuzzy

My son has been back to school for a week now.  Unlike previous years, I did not send any information to school.  I did not contact the principal. I sent my son’s supplies to school with him and planned to send out a detailed email to all of his teachers within the coming days. 

I am not a slacker who no longer cares about her son because he is now technically in high school. Its simply the fact that the majority of his teachers have had him at one point over the past two years and have been sent my information before.  There are also now two children with diabetes in his school.  This means that they bring in a nurse at the beginning of the year and “educate” the school.  I know that this is contrary to everything I tell people.  I preach that you should be in on these meetings and I still feel that way but again, these teachers have been educated by me for a number of years so I don’t feel like being overly pushy on this issue.  

I also now have two other fall backs in case of emergency this year.  A teacher that my son had at his former school (who taught my son for three years and was AMAZING with his diabetes care) is now teaching a lower grade in my son’s new school.  My son also has a teacher (that he has had in the past) who’s husband has Type 1 diabetes, is more than willing to be there in any emergency and will handle things like glucagon if need be.  I love these people!! They allow me that warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that my son is safe at school. 

It was therefore somewhat surprising when my son handed me a folder that I had created two years ago and said “My teacher says that this needs to be updated by my doctor.”  I looked at him like he was nuts.  

“Your doctor?” 

“Yeah, that’s what he said and can you fix that picture of me? I look like a complete dork!”

I shook my head and took the folder.  I was glad that previous homeroom teachers had seen fit to pass the “red folder” on to the next year’s homeroom teacher.  The picture was a little dated but based on the fact that the folder contained information on my son with notes to contact me, my name and my cell phone number along with basic facts about diabetes care, diabetes, highs and lows, and insulin pump use, I am thinking that the teacher did not take the time to actually “read” what he was given. 

Either way, I will update the information…and the picture.  I will get myself in gear and make sure I contact all of his teachers once again to let them know our basic diabetes care rules–testing in class, access to the washroom and water, as well as testing to know that he is in range and firing on all cylinders before exams.  

Its good to know that they are still taking diabetes seriously because sadly it does not “improve” with age the issues simply change a little. 

I am guessing that this won’t be his first choice for replacement photo either :)



Unsafe at School Reaches BC Medical Journal

Last week, the BC Medical Journal published an article called “Unsafe at School: Advocating for Children with Type 1 diabetes.”  It is my understanding that the document was created by parents and endorsed by many in the medical community.  It was a huge feat to have this reach such a publication.  It added weight to the argument that children with diabetes in schools do have special needs based on their medical condition. Parents are not asking for help for their children with diabetes in schools just because they are too lazy to take time off work to run to schools.  There are many more concerns here and those concerns are justified.

The article does a great job of highlighting the real impact of hyperglycemia on learning. They note that extended exposure to hyperglycemia can have a long term impact on cognitive performance.  The authors further state that because some parents are not able to get to school themselves nor are they able to get a friend or relative to go to the school to inject their child, they are put on inferior insulin regimens and the children are often forced to run high during school hours.  As previously noted, this means that the student’s ability to learn in the afternoon session is severely reduced. 

This problem could be alleviated if aides or other school staff were allowed to assist with injections or boluses.  Sadly, the article states that the BC Nursing Support Services feel that such people are not qualified to do these tasks. Personally this is political rhetoric.  If this was the case, that a teacher or aide could not be trained to inject insulin or deal with glucagon, then why are we as parents, not sent home with a nurse when we leave the hospital with our child? Parents of children with diabetes come from all walks of life and all education levels and yet everyone of us is required to test, inject, and manage glucagon if the need arises. We are trained by diabetes educators and if we do not use that training we are charge with criminal negligence regarding the safety of our children. I have spoken with educator and classes of students wanting to work in the school system, most are very willing to learn and be taught to assist their students to the best of their abilities.  

I do have two small issues with this article however, but let me preface first that I know how hard it is to get consensus and that some points have to be made at the sacrifice of others.  It can often be necessary to use extremes to get the attention of those most important.

My first concern is the argument of children with diabetes being labelled as disabled.  I was recently made aware that the Human Rights Commission of Canada has chosen to recognize diabetes as a disability.  This is a very sticky area.  Many people with diabetes work very hard to show that there is nothing that they cannot do.  They have fought various organizations to prove that they are just as capable of flying planes and working in the protective services as anyone else.  They do not see diabetes as a disability.  My son would fall under this category of people.

Other people feel that someone with diabetes is disabled. They have a disabled pancreas.  The need to have an external source of insulin, to test blood and carry glucagon is not normal. The fact that a person with diabetes cannot always participate in activities because of hyper- or hypoglycemia, in some people’s mind makes them disabled.

In the US, this concept is widely accepted.  In the US, people with diabetes are considered disabled and protected both at work and in school by the American Disabilities Act.  This allows students to receive, on paper at least, protection of their rights to inject, have assistance, and be exempt from writing exams when out of range.  Sadly, schools still fail to provide their students with the proper protections, often discourage parents from implementing these plans, and are looking to remove school nurses from some schools leaving young children with diabetes in a similar situation to our own children here in Canada.

There is no easy answer.  We do need protection for our children.  We do need standard policies in place–not just for our children but for the educators as well. Staff need to understand what diabetes is.  They need to understand how each child is unique in their needs.  They need to understand that while the needs of a child with diabetes change over the years, there is a need for assistance from pre-kindergarten all the way up to grade 12 and beyond. 

This was my second issue with the article.  I wished that there had been a way to expand their focus a little more.  A child who is five may not be able to inject themselves or understand how to bolus but a child of 15 may not be able to see his/her meter when are high and properly handle their diabetes care.  A child of eight may do poorly on an afternoon test because their blood sugar was high but a child of 16 may fail a provincial exam because they were also high but no one noted their blood glucose levels and waited for them to be in range to have them take that test.  Finally, a child who is 7 may not yet recognize when he/she is low and will require an adult to keep an eye out for them when the stumble on the playground and feel out of sorts.  A child of 17 needs the same protection when they stumble in the halls because they are low but are mistakenly sent to the Principal’s office for being intoxicated in school. The rights and safety of children of all ages must be protected. They all can be in dangerous situations just because they happen to have Type 1 diabetes.

I applaud the initiative and the passion of these authors. I truly hope that the legitimacy that this article gives to some of the issues children with diabetes in schools face help students not just in BC but throughout Canada.  Our concerns are real.  Diabetes is deadly.  Treatment methods are changing and schools must be able to accommodate the needs of our students, allowing them to use the best possible treatment methods in school so that they can be at their very best to learn while in the classroom.

Pushy? Overprotective? or Educating?

Can you be too pushy? Too demanding? I know that you can be but where is that line?

I received an email from my son’s principal yesterday with a time and date for us to meet regarding his care in school. I was very pleased that time had been taken for a meeting to discuss with them my experiences and concerns.  After 24 hours, I began to consider who would be at this meeting. It was to be small, which was fine but then I realized that the people involved were his home room teacher, the principal and a special education teacher.  The home room teacher also teaches him two other classes so that was fine but why a special ed teacher? He has no learning disabilities. He has a physical condition that can impair his thinking but we do not need special learning techniques or anything like that.

I then realized that we were missing a few key teachers from core subjects.  I emailed the principal back today and asked about at least one other teacher that I felt should be there. I explained that I understood that they had had an in service with a nurse but there were cognitive issues around testing and homework that needed to be discussed.  She emailed me back and said that she would invite all of his teachers to attend.  I truly appreciated that she did this and I hope most, if not all, will attend but I began to wonder if I was being too pushy.

One teacher is hypoglycemic and another told my son that she also has a child with Type 1.  These two people should be a major help but I still worry.  How long have they been dealing with this? Do they truly understand all of the implications? Are they looking at me like an overprotective nutcase? Am I an overprotective nutcase?

I don’t think so. I think I am an educated person who sadly has had to learn that this is a disease about more than just taking insulin and testing.  I have seen the impact of highs and lows on my child’s body as well as his mind.  I have seen him high and unable to answer basic questions in class. I have seen him low and unable to write at all.

So many people still think of diabetes as “Grandma’s disease”.  Very few people understand the magnitude of how it affects the mind and the body.  Many people do not understand how quickly changes can occur.  Most people have never had to see the other side of diabetes.  They have not seen the unresponsive loved one who has gone so low that they are slipping unconscious.  They have not seen the child who cannot see or grasp how to turn on a light.  They have not seen a person so weak from ketones that its all they can do to get to the toilet to vomit.

I guess in this case, its my job to make sure that they understand. Its my job to warn them and prepare them. Its not just about protecting my child but its also about making them aware and ready to handle these things when it happens in their classroom. Hopefully if they think I am overprotective today, they will thank me later when they begin to understand and see for themselves what diabetes can look like up close.

We survived!

School started here on Wednesday.  As you may have read, I dawdled and procrastinated before I got this stuff in order and was proud of myself for being set by Monday night.  I had found all sorts of errors and omissions that needed to be changed and because my son was older I also had a lot of care issues to alter as well. He no longer needs someone to make sure he ate his snack or to verify his bolus. Now he needs someone to make sure he tests before exams and allows him use of his cell phone if he needs to question me about his care. All done and no ink to print it.

Tuesday we were like the rest of the area and were heading out for last minute school items.  There was one big difference though–most people were looking for notebooks and pencils.  We were looking for printer ink to send information to school to keep our child safe. 

So how much ink did I need? Well I did use a bit. I had red duo-tangs with see through covers.  The front was a picture of my son with his name and a bit about “his” diabetes care.  This included what he would bring to school and what I wanted the school to do to help him. I then included a letter explaining what diabetes was followed by a two page letter about his insulin pump.  When I could, I added pictures so that they knew what they were dealing with. I included two NovoNordisk charts on highs and lows which I suggested they photocopy and leave in various places throughout the school. Finally I included the two CDA documents that I helped out with–Standards of Care, and the Medical Care Plan proposal.  I also had his red emergency kit labeled and inside was a set of spare supplies…just in case. No it wasn’t overkill, it was educating. 
I finally had everything put together and ready to take to school Wednesday morning. My son was sure that it was too soon for summer holidays to end and we should perhaps consider another vacation starting right that moment.  I didn’t tell him but I was equally as nervous.  All night I wondered what I had forgotten and prayed that they would be as accommodating as they seemed.
Wednesday morning arrived too quickly for all of us and we loaded up the truck with the tonne of school supplies required as well as the tonne of paperwork required by Mom. The three of us headed off to our first day in our new school.  We timed the run to see how long to anticipate my son being on the bus.  When we arrived we looked like many other families and like other families, we headed to the office to register.

The secretary greeted us and I quickly went through a few key points in our booklet…like the warning signs of highs and lows. As she went to photocopy some of our documentation, the principal walked in.  She greeted us right away and knew who we were. The secretary kindly showed Liam to his new classroom and the principal and I discussed meeting with staff in the next few weeks to go over details of Liam’s care specific to him. I was very impressed. We were invited to stay for a family breakfast that they were having so Larry and I headed off to enjoy a coffee.
As we headed in search of our first cup of “Joe”, I ran into a few people that I had met through the years in volunteering at our old school.  It gave me a sense of comfort and I began to relax–well just a little.  It didn’t take long for students to join us for breakfast. Not surprising my son stood off to the side and hung around with us.  His teacher came over and told me that she was hypoglycemic so Liam was in good hands. Oh happy day because she also seemed to “get it”!! I left the school feeling better that things would be okay.
We drove home and waited for him.  He had a full day and I hoped not to hear any messages from him until he was home.  The first message arrived when he was on the bus heading home.  School was terrible! Mom panicked but thankfully we were texting so I just began to ask questions.  Did you get lost? No, the school isn’t big enough for that. Were people mean to you? No, they were pretty friendly. Did you not understand what was going on? No, it was pretty basic and boring. Were you high? No.  In other words, he just was in a new school and was still adjusting. Mom could breathe again. I waited to see if he tested. I didn’t ask but checked his log later that evening. He did! We are off to a good start! Now I will just keep praying that this will continue and eventually he really will enjoy his new environment.