There’s some things you don’t learn from books…. – By Lucy Thomas
I was diagnosed half way through my time at secondary school at the age of 13. In some ways I consider that to be lucky time to be diagnosed quite how parents cope with very young children with diabetes I’ll never know. By 13 I was old enough to look after myself, recognise the signs of hypos and understand the importance of checking sugar levels. However on the other side of things at the age of 13 you’re just beginning to head along the hormonal highway that all teenagers must travel along before they settle into adulthood. At 13 the last thing I wanted was anything that set me apart from my peers. I was already fat and ginger….I just didn’t need being a diabetic as well!
So after a week in hospital and a whistle stop tour of Type 1 diabetes management I was back in school trying desperately to pretend that nothing had happened and hoping life soon would go back to normal. Whatever normal is.
My biggest issue with my school was that because I was now a diabetic it meant I was considered to have ‘Special Educational Needs’. I resented this massively for two reasons. I hated being labelled and I hated the person that was in charge of the SEN department. We never got on mainly because they were extraordinarily condescending and patronising, and made me think I was less of a person because I was a diabetic. Luckily I soon came to realise to know better. I’ll stop myself now before I get too angry – and waste any more of my blog on that individual!
Overall my school were fairly ok in being supportive of my diabetes. I wasn’t the only student there who had it so they had previous experience. It was all fairly straightforward really – my blood sugar monitor had to be kept in the school office and if I wanted to check my sugars, or I thought I was having a hypo I had to tell a teacher then take a friend with me so if I fainted en-route I wouldn’t wither away in the hallway. Whilst at school I never felt that they should be doing more, after all it was my problem no one else’s. There were 500 students to monitor, all with their own issues….why should I get special treatment over everyone else?
A while back I read various articles/comments etc. in the lead up to the Make the Grade campaign and have to say I’ve been pretty horrified by some people’s stories. Parents who have had to deal with clueless schools, staff not recognising hypos, refusing children food and students falling behind, a far cry from my experience at school. Diabetes UK setting up Make the Grade will surely make some headway in schools obtaining the information they need so children with diabetes can have a successful time at school.
That being said, this whole thing has got me thinking. I’m saying this as the daughter of two teachers; some people have a very misconstrued idea of what a teacher’s responsibility is. They’re there to TEACH, to help your child reach their full potential within their academic capabilities. My mum was still teaching children who were 8 years old how to go to the toilet properly. How to tie their shoe laces. How to have good manners. The list, sadly, goes on. I’m sorry but as far as I’m concerned these are all things parents should be doing. Yes during the day teachers are in charge of your children and are responsible for their well-being. But they’re not just in charge of your child; they have 30+ children to think about. In that mix there’ll be kids with asthma, ADHD, dyslexia, nut allergies, sight difficulties, hearing difficulties and god knows what else. In fact these days it seems more unusual for a child NOT to have something wrong with them. Teachers juggle all of this AND they have 9 months in which to make sure your child is meeting their learning goals. I could never, ever, ever be a teacher. The pressure and stress is phenomenal. Let’s say a teacher starting out is on £25,000 a year, they probably work, on average, about 60 hours a week if you take in all the planning. That works out at £8 an hour. Divide that by 30 (the amount of kids in an average class) that’s 26p. Your child’s teacher is getting paid 26p an hour to teach them. The maths is probably a bit off but when you look at it like that, it does make you sit back and think. Anyone who has read this and uttered ‘yeah but they get loads of holiday’ how dare you be so narrow-minded.
I am not sitting here implying that teachers shouldn’t learn how to deal with a child with diabetes, or that schools that have a poor understanding of the disease shouldn’t be bought to attention. What I’m saying is that schools already have a mountain of things to deal with and we need to be sympathetic to that. As a parent of a diabetic how can you empower your child to take responsibility, from a young age, for their diabetes? How can your child teach others about diabetes? Children that constantly have mum and dad coming in sorting out their problems will never learn how to fend for themselves and stand on their own two feet. Let your child know that being a diabetic isn’t a problem, it’s just a lifestyle and that looking after themselves and being independent is paramount to becoming a healthy, successful adult.