Fitting in… – By Helen May


Some say your school days are the best days of your life. I’m not sure about that, but they were certainly not the worst. I had the usual trials and tribulations of trying to fit it whilst forming my own personality. Balancing the need to be like my friends and making my own decisions rather the following the crowds all the time. Some decisions to be different were easy: I never thought it was cool to shoplift even a packet of sweets because I was far too scared of the consequences of getting caught. Some things were beyond my control: I had red hair so would never be like the blond haired girls (unless I dyed it which seemed far too much like hard work). And some times I just pretended to be the same: when I knew the answers in class is was far too “teacher’s pet” to put up my hand.

Most of the time, I could choose when to be different.

And, parental permission allowing, I could choose when to join in with extra-curriculum activities like sport (not very often), youth club (most weeks because there were Boys there) and school trips (depends which friends were going). And, when I look back, all my friends were the same. That’s because we were lucky that no one had any “unusual circumstances” like family situations or medical conditions. We could just get on with our very important and very intense, school lives.

It could have been different: if I had been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, thirty years earlier, I would have had to stand out from the crowd when I was trying to fit it and any under-age drinking at the youth club (we weren’t supposed to but I am sure the teachers knew it was happening) would have to be monitored more closely, a camping trip in the Swiss Alps would be less likely (unless my parents came which was definitely not the idea) and sports day would have been a much bigger deal.

I am very glad to read about the new legislation but I still worry about children with diabetes trying to fit in at school.

One of my concerns is due to other people’s ignorance. Both in terms of what people with diabetes can do and eat and in terms of the confusion between the different types of diabetes. For this reason, I would love to see an understanding of medical conditions becoming part of the school syllabus. This does not have to be limited to diabetes. What about asthma or even a common cold? The benefits of this are to make children with these conditions included as well as minimising any assumptions (from both children and adults).

Being diagnose with type 1diabetes in my 30s, I was one of the lucky ones. I will continue to whinge about being forgotten in the literature for new people and about loosing things that I used to have (like a driving license until my 70th birthday), but at least I could choose when to join in, when to keep my parents at arms length and what to eat as I went through my formative years. Whilst we cannot stop children getting diabetes and have no cure when they do, I hope their lives can be as much like everyone else as possible. And where that is not possible, I hope provisions are put in place to allow everyone else to understand why not.

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