Fighting For Our Kids

By Dorothy Mitchell (LaVonne) on June 4, 2012

Making sure children with diabetes are safe at school. By Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Every time I hear about parents who are struggling to get what their children with diabetes need in school, it brings me back to the many years that we had to fight for every little thing that our son needed in school. It seemed so counterintuitive to me at the time, and still does, not to just do what makes sense, because it makes sense. But, as most of us know, schools and other institutions don't necessarily operate based on what should be common sense. The fear of lawsuits, the desire to do things by the book, and the need to follow specified protocols have, in some cases, taken over what would otherwise be the obvious choice of what to do in so many cases where our children with diabetes are concerned.

It is sad that during a time when there is such a strong focus on inclusion for all students, there are still so many things that separate children with diabetes or other special needs, including having access (or limitations) to certain foods. So much of it seems to be based on a true lack of knowledge on the part of the school. You would think that would mean that the schools would welcome having diabetes educators come in to educate the teachers and administrators about the basics of the disease. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Simply suggesting that the training is needed is perceived as a threat. While it is understandable that this kind of training takes time away from their other responsibilities at school, keeping the children in school safe is one of their biggest responsibilities. That child did not choose to have a life-threatening disease, and certainly did not choose to have to do countless additional tasks each day to keep themselves safe and healthy.

What can really be infuriating is when administrators or others suggest that parents want "special treatment" for their children with diabetes, when in fact all we really want is equal treatment. Just because someone else's child doesn't require glucose tabs or juice to get through the day doesn't mean we are asking for something "special" for our kids. What we want is for our child to be just as safe as everyone else's, and that might mean letting them have juice at their desk or take time to test their blood sugar before they take a test or go outside.

While it can be frustrating to see other parents still fighting for the same things for their elementary school child that we fought for seven or eight years ago, it is comforting to be able to be there as support for those parents. Even though the rights of children with diabetes are still far from being routine in most school districts, they are getting closer with each loud mouthed (in a good way) mother who is willing to take on their child's principal or out-of-touch school nurse in order to secure their child's rights and safety in school. The fantastic school nurses are getting closer to outnumbering the out-of-touch ones, and more and more administrators and teachers are gaining experience with the serious health concerns of many of their students. And Moms will always know how fight for what their kids need, without any concern about rocking the boat along the way.

Related articles:
diabetes, kids, safety, school

About Dorothy Mitchell
I was a nurse for 12 years and then about 7 years ago I was diagnosed with Diabetes Type 2. Since then I have learned more about my disease and its complications. I have also learned to manage my blood sugar with diet and oral medication.

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According to the CDC Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and adolescents; about 151,000 people below the age of 20 years have diabetes. When diabetes strikes during childhood, it is routinely assumed to be type 1, or juvenile-onset diabetes. However, in the last 2 decades, type 2 diabetes (formerly known as adult-onset diabetes) has been reported among U.S. children and adolescents with increasing frequency.