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What Will Everybody Think?
Peer association is important to adolescents and teens. They do not want to be different from their friends, but everything about diabetes self-management displays the "differentness" of youth with diabetes. Eating snacks, checking blood-sugar levels, wearing a diabetes identification bracelet all may be uncomfortable.

Taking Diabetes into the Classroom

Children living with diabetes, especially Type 1 diabetes, have health-care needs that require extra consideration on a daily basis. Under federal law, diabetes is considered a disability. Youth with diabetes are protected from discrimination in school and daycare under the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1991. The Rehabilitation Act forbids discrimination in federally financed activities or programs, including daycare centers and public schools. The Americans with Disabilities Act bans discrimination against people with disabilities. IDEA compels states to provide a "free, appropriate public education" to youth with disabilities. Once it is proven that a student?s diabetes is detrimental to their learning, an Individualized Education Plan will be developed.

Just Say No!

During their self-exploration period, youth are more open to experimenting with their appearance, diabetes self-management routine, etc. This may lead them to experimenting with drugs and alcohol. They need realistic information on the effects of illegal drugs and alcohol on blood sugar. Drinking lowers blood sugar by blocking the release of sugar from the liver and impairs judgement. It can cause a serious reaction and others may just assume they're drunk.

Using tobacco is risky for anyone, but for people with diabetes the risks are multiplied. As with diabetes, nicotine affects the blood pressure, blood vessels and the heart. Therefore, the risks of developing complications from diabetes are increased.

The use of illegal drugs affects blood sugar. Some drugs raise blood sugar, others lower it. An increase in appetite can occur or cause someone to forget to eat all together.

Youth may be unwilling to admit to using drugs or alcohol, so it is important to share this information with them anyway.

Life After High School

Graduating into adulthood is a major time of change for teens and their guardians. Moving out on their own, going to college or a technical school, getting a job, obtaining their own health insurance are just a few of the challenges facing them. Throughout it all, handling stress in a positive manner and having a support network is important.

I Wanna Do It!

Independence is important for children--it's a rite of passage for them into adulthood. Children with a chronic condition should be active in their daily care routine, but guardians must be careful not to hand over all control. Even a child who has been drawing up and self-injecting needs parental involvement. It is important that the child with diabetes does not feel they are all alone in their care. Burnout is a very real thing and guardians need to be aware of it.

Recommended Reading for Youth and Their Families

  • In Control--A Guide for Teens with Diabetes by Jean Betschart, M.N., R.N., C.D.E., and Susan Thom, R.D., L.D., C.D.E.
  • Sugar Was My Best Food: Diabetes and Me by Carol Antoinette Peacock, Adair Gregory and Kyle Carney Gregory
  • Grilled Cheese at Four O'Clock in the Morning by Judy Miller
  • My Sister Rose Has Diabetes by Monica Driscoll Beatty
  • Taking Diabetes to School, by Kim Gosselin
  • Even Little Kids Get Diabetes, by Connie White Pirner
  • It's Time to Learn About Diabetes by Jean Betschart, M.N., R.N., C.D.E.

Recommended Reading for Guardians

  • The Ten Keys to Helping Your Child Grow up With Diabetes by Tim Wysocki, Ph.D.
  • Parenting a Diabetic Child by Gloria Loring
  • Whole Parent Whole Child by Patricia M. Moynihan R.Nn, P.N.P., M.P.H., and Broatch Haig, ED, C.D.E.
  • Sweet Kids: How to Balance Diabetes Control & Good Nutrition With Family Peace by Betty Page Brackenridge M.S., R.D., C.D.E. & Richard R. Rubin, Ph.D., C.D.E.
  • The Kids, Food and Diabetes Family Cookbook by Gloria Loring

Before school even starts, parents of children with diabetes should request a meeting with school personnel. This meeting should include the principal, nurse, teachers, gym teacher, and if applicable, coaches and bus driver. Issues to be discussed should include:

  • explanation of diabetes in general and the student?s diabetes specifically the school?s policies on blood-sugar (blood glucose) testing, injections, snacks, access to emergency treatment for reactions, and glucagon administration
  • lunch schedule
  • exercise (recess and/or gym) schedule
  • field trip policies and schedule
  • emergency contacts

If after educating the school personnel you feel you/your child?s rights have been violated or have been a victim of discrimination, there are several things you can do:

  • Contact the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES for assistance
  • File a complaint with the Department of Education
  • File a suit with the U.S. Department of Civil Rights

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