While having Type 1 diabetes does not affect a person’s ability to learn in the classroom, lack of knowledge, improper care, and inflexibility by school personnel with regards to Type 1 diabetes could potentially affect a child’s success in the classroom.
While on the outside most children with Type 1 diabetes look and act exactly the same as everyone else in their class. They learn the same, the play the same, and most likely, they get in trouble the same. But one main difference between a child with Type 1 diabetes and a child without Type 1 diabetes is their blood sugar. A child without diabetes does not need to think about their sugar level before, during an after a test or activity. A child with Type 1 diabetes has no choice but to check and monitor their sugar before, during and after a test because it could mean the difference between an A or an F.
I saw this first hand when my son was on MDIs (multiple daily injections/shots). He was recently diagnosed and in preschool three days a week. The only thing he knew how to read at the time was his name. Having a name with 8 letters really helped him because he was able to pick it out of most of the names in his class because the other names were shorter. So, I got to the school and asked him to grab his work off of the table that his teacher would lay out at the end of each day.
My son could not find his paper. There were only 9 papers on the table. He looked at me and said, “I can’t tell which one is mine, could you get it?” I grabbed the paper that was covered on the entire top half with his 8 letter name. Immediately upon getting to our car I tested my son, his number was in the high 400s. Too high, yes. So high that he was unable to focus enough to pick out his own name. If this had been the SATs in Junior Year of high school, well, we all know where that would have ended, and it wouldn’t have been good.
All children with Type 1 diabetes have to have a 504 Plan or a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) that stipulates, among other items, when a child is supposed to test their sugar, and in what range their number fall in order to perform at their absolute best.
This plan is something that needs to be discussed with all people involved with the education of children with Type 1 diabetes. While some teachers may think it is smart teaching to surprise the class with a ‘pop’ quiz, that teacher still needs to allow for time for the child to test their sugar and provide treatment if necessary in order for the child to do their best on the ‘pop’ quiz.
People with Type 1 diabetes are at their best when their numbers are in range. The only way to tell if their numbers are in range is to test, test and test some more. School districts need to follow these plans in order to keep the playing field level for all kids. In some states, the schools provide breakfast the day of a big test to make sure everyone is thinking at their best. This is the same for a child with Type 1 diabetes, they test to make sure they are at their best. That’s all anyone wants for their child, that they are able to perform at their best. Children with Type 1 diabetes can’t do it alone, they need the support of school personnel to understand, learn, and respect how knowing one’s blood sugar can be the difference between an A or an F.