A diagnosis of diabetes changes everything — for both the patient and her family. For parents of newly diagnosed children, diabetes presents a host of challenges that can feel overwhelming at first.
November is National Diabetes Month
Managing the treatment of diabetes when your child is home can be challenging enough, but what about when she is at school?
When your child is diagnosed with diabetes, there is a lot to learn about managing the disease. The sheer amount of information and training parents need to manage their child’s treatment is daunting. With approximately one out of every 400 children now affected by diabetes, chances are high that you will know a child who is diagnosed.
Check out these tips for diabetes awareness >>
Type 1 or type 2?
Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body’s own immune system destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. Without insulin available, blood sugar levels can rise and eventually cause damage to nerves and small blood vessels. Type 1 diabetes is most commonly diagnosed in people under the age of 20, but can arise at any age. This is the least common type of diabetes — affecting only about 5 percent of people diagnosed with the disease.
"The diagnosis can leave kids feeling like they no longer have control over their lives."
In type 2 diabetes patients, the body produces insulin, but either there is not enough insulin or their body doesn’t use it properly. This is called insulin resistance. About 90 to 95 percent of the 26 million Americans with diabetes have been diagnosed with type 2.
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How it affects kids
Kirsten Schull is the mother of six children who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She knows first-hand what difficulties children face when dealing with diabetes at school. “They go off to school every day, and they have to deal with it in their own way,” Schull shares. “A little child deals with it much differently than a 16-year-old. I have college-aged kids with it [type 1 diabetes] and it’s a challenge no matter what grade they are in.” She has partnered with Lilly Diabetes to provide information and tips to other parents who are learning to deal with the disease. “The Disney site is really helpful because I think parents feel isolated too, and they feel like they are alone facing this challenge,” she says. “There is a real sense of community on the site, and that community is really important for parents.”
The diagnosis can leave kids feeling like they no longer have control over their lives. “It makes the child feel that he’s never going to be normal again,” says Schull. “It’s true — he’s never going to have the same freedom that he did before. From that moment on, he’s never going to have his food un-monitored, his lifestyle un-monitored. Somebody’s going to be watching over him all the time until he’s an adult. It’s a difficult thing to adjust to.“
Tips for managing treatment
Teresa Pearson, M.S., R.N., C.D.E., F.A.A.D.E., is a certified diabetes educator and nurse. Her recent presentation at the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) meeting focused on the following recommendations in several key areas where parents often need additional information to properly manage their child’s diabetes.
After the initial shock of a diabetes diagnosis, parents need information and advice for managing their child’s needs and moving forward. The Disney/Lilly Diabetes site is a great resource for families who are dealing with diabetes.
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