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Safely Back to School for Students with Type 1 Diabetes

For many pareIMG_2309nts the start of the school year is a welcome return to routine. But for one group, parents of the approximately 3,800 Alberta students with type 1diabetes, the return to school increases anxiety about the safety of their child at school. The level of parental worry reflects the level of support provided. Unfortunately, that support varies wildly from school to school within Alberta. We need a reasonable, sustainable policy for all students with type 1diabetes. 

According to the Alberta School Act, students are entitled to welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environme
nts that respect diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and a positive sense of self. Yet it has been my personal experience that some schools fail to fully support students with type 1diabetes, perhaps over a concern about liability or increased costs. A reasonable policy, developed with the education system will ensure that students with type 1diabetes are safe and included in
school with minimal impact on the education budget and without increasing the workload on teachers.

I know this, because other provinces have done so. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Labrador, Quebec (en français) and British Columbia all have policies supporting students with type 1 diabetes. My son Alexander was diagnosed at age seven when we were living in New Brunswick, a province often highlighted for its diabetes school policy. My son was placed in a class with a teacher’s aide who supported another child with learning issues. With minimal training the aide assisted Alexander with blood sugar checks and called me if things were out of the norm. Knowing he was safe at school allowed me to work part time.Students with type 1diabetes may require assistance in addition to emergency situations. Maintaining appropriate blood sugar levels is key to long-term health and academic success. Blood sugar levels that are out of the normal range can impact a student’s ability to learn or their performance on tests. Yet, there is no policy to help my son, or any student in Alberta if blood sugars are not cooperating on exam day.

Type 1diabetes is a complex disease and certainly in the beginning there is a lot of fear and uncertainty as the family and child figure it out. Every family will have different intellectual, emotional and financial capabilities that impact their ability to cope with type 1diabetes. Yet they all deserve to be supported in school.

Students with diabetes have the right to the same opportunities as other students and that access must be available no matter where you live in Alberta, no matter what grade you are in, no matter which school you attend and no matter your family situation.

It’s time for students to return to school and it’s time for the Alberta
government to develop a policy for students with type 1diabetes.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • So true! And it doesn’t have to be a chore if we all work together. Our family has had a school principal tell us, in effect, our son wasn’t welcome; we have had another tell us he was welcome but diabetes management was entirely our responsibility. Our current school is simply willing to work with us to find solutions. That’s all we were looking for, and we feel blessed that we found it, because it’s not a “given” in Alberta, there’s no policy to protect the safety of kids with diabetes in school. Thanks for your post, highlighting this gap.

    • Thanks for commenting Michelle. I’m happy your school is supportive. Hoping we can get a policy in place so that all students experience the same, no matter where they live.

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