For many parents of kids with type 1 diabetes, back-to- school time can bring distress, anxiety and worry over their child’s health and well-being at school. There are no consistent policies or guidelines to protect students with type 1 diabetes in all provinces. Currently Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba lag behind.
“Canada is facing an inequality in how children and youth living with type 1 diabetes are supported in our public school system,” says Russell Williams, vice-president of Government Relations and Public Policy with Diabetes Canada. “We have a patchwork system of different care standards among school boards and across provinces.”
Type 1 diabetes is when the body is unable to produce insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. More than 34,000 Canadian children under the age of 19 live with type 1 diabetes, that’s 1 in every 300 students or one child per school. There is no known cause or cure and it is usually diagnosed in childhood.
To prevent long-term complications (amputation, blindness, kidney failure) and emergency situations, students with diabetes must balance medication, including insulin, food and activity throughout the school day. With support from school personnel, most students can manage their diabetes independently. However, some students, especially very young children may need support to perform diabetes management tasks and require someone to assist with or to administer insulin, monitor blood sugar, or supervise food intake and activity.
To assist governments and schools with the development of clear and consistent diabetes policies across the country, Diabetes Canada worked with a team of health-care providers and parents to develop Guidelines. Another important resource developed to assist schools and parents is the newly developed, comprehensive and bilingual kids @ school project led by the Canadian Paediatric Society.
For Matthew DeAbreu of Toronto, the start of another school year means he will once again be facing the constant worry for the health and safety of his nine-year-old son Ethan. Is his blood sugar okay? Is there someone who will notice if he experiences a low (hypoglycemia), and know what to do? Will he be stigmatized for having his father show up every lunch hour to sit with him ensuring he eats all his food? Will the school exclude him from field trips?
“We need to work together to promote a caring and positive learning environment for student with diabetes, free of discrimination and stigma,” says Williams.
Help us ensure all schools are keeping kids with diabetes safe. By signing the Diabetes Charter for Canada you’re saying all children should be given the opportunity to manage their diabetes and achieve their full health potential through access to needed care and support.
About Diabetes Canada
Diabetes Canada is the registered national charitable organization that is making the invisible epidemic of diabetes visible and urgent. Diabetes Canada partners with Canadians to End Diabetes through:
- Resources for health care professionals on best practices to care for people with diabetes;
- Advocacy to governments, schools and workplaces; and
- Funding world-leading Canadian research to improve treatments and find a cure.
For more information, visit diabetes.ca or call 1-800-BANTING (226-8464).