The one thing that all parents seem to agree on is that children are unique and those who have diabetes react differently to the same set of circumstances even though they have the same condition. Some teachers will tell you that in their experience, when a child is hypoglycaemic, or hyperglycaemic for that matter, the behaviour exhibited by the youngster is out of character at best and insubordinate when nearing its worst. One teacher stated “I believed that a child with diabetes in my class was genuinely misbehaving, only to find that when insulin was administered normality was quickly restored.” The problem is that “I was a relatively new educator to the school and didn’t have any idea of how to deal with this child.”
This is a worldwide problem. Many teachers still do not understand any of the basic concerning issues of diabetes and are ignorant of the consequences. I recently spoke to a mom whose diabetic child went on a school tour . She mentioned how her child, a ten year old, continuously ate and then at meal times had sugars of 20 plus. “I spent the entire 3 days worrying,” she said.
Children will be children and we, as adults, need to be aware of how our own kids may react to the temptation of sugar-laden foods. Responsibility is key! Everyone needs to share this responsibility in order for kids to be able to manage their diabetes. The more information that one can supply to teachers and other supervising adults, like one usually do with coaches, the more successful one will tend to be. Sometimes people in authority can forget or even ignore children with diabetes. This oversight can become life threatening. The most successful way to communicate and control your child’s diabetic condition is to form partnerships – with teachers, parents, coaches, drivers, peers and more importantly, other diabetic children. This is possibly going to stand your child in good stead when he or she needs assistance.
One needs to be able to be ensure that someone will know what to do in the case of an emergency, or even in the everyday management of the condition, like a friend gently reminding your child to test when he or she “forgets” to do so. All children with diabetes should be encouraged to share their diabetic management plan with their classmates, teachers and basically anyone who they may be around when their parents are absent. In a world where our children are under immense pressure to perform, we need to remember that the added strain on these little ones, who are trying to cope with all of life’s battles as well as managing their diabetes, is a particularly heavy load that even us as parents and adults sometimes forget.
I believe that a team effort needs to be made with the schools and districts in provinces all around the country. Also, programmes need to be set up to inform individuals at all levels to assist diabetic learners whatever their needs may be, both inside the classroom and outside on a sports field. What is certain is that all children who are diagnosed with diabetes will need ‘a little help from their friends from time to time.
By Mark Moore
Mark Moore is a principal of a public primary school in Gauteng. He has a Higher Diploma in Education, a B.Ed Honours, and has recently completed a M.Ed by dissertation at WITS entitled “The Management of Diabetic Learners in South African Schools.”