JDRF lends support to [email protected] campaign

Advocating for a policy on managing T1D in schools

JDRF has signed on to a new joint petition with Diabetes Canada calling on the Ontario government to enact a province-wide policy on managing type 1 diabetes (T1D) in schools.

Without a comprehensive provincial policy to follow, it’s often up to a child’s school principal to decide what, if any, support will be provided. As parents of children with T1D know all too well, this can be a difficult disease to manage at the best of times. In the short term, swings in blood sugar levels can make it difficult for children to learn, and puts them at risk of dangerous lows. Tighter control of blood glucose also reduces the long-term risks of complications.

“In late November 2012,” recalls Ottawa parent Trudy Adams, “on the day of the first snowfall in Ottawa, our then four-year-old son went off to school as usual. He likely ran around with all the other snow-loving and excited kids at lunch break and burned up his glucose stores.”  

“A rest period followed lunch, but he didn’t wake up from his nap,” continued Trudy. “His eyes were glazed over and he began convulsions. Staff were quick to react. They called 911, then called Dad who was luckily working at home nearby and was able to get to the school faster than the paramedics. Our son was unresponsive and his blood glucose reading was 1.8 mmol/L.  Dad injected the glucagon just as paramedics arrived.  All was well a short while later, but the story could be so different the next time.”

At present, Ontario is one of five provinces that still lack a province-wide policy on diabetes in schools. The others are Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and PEI.

For this reason, JDRF has chosen to support the [email protected] coalition led by Diabetes Canada, the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Pediatric Endocrine Group. 

The coalition is calling for province-wide policies aimed at addressing the day-to-day management of diabetes as well as emergency care. Policies should make clear the roles and responsibilities of parents, school personnel and others. All students with T1D should have an individual care plan to ensure that each  receives support appropriate to their age and treatment regimen. The coalition’s website www.diabetesatschool.ca includes useful resources for schools as well as parents of children with T1D.

Five provinces have already put in place provincial policies. Perhaps the most comprehensive of these are those put in place by the BC government in 2015, which cover students from kindergarten to grade 12 and even provides for the emergency administration of glucagon, via a life-saving injection in some ways similar to an Epi-pen.

Having a policy would give parents much needed peace of mind that their child’s needs are being addressed and would ensure that children with T1D are able to participate fully in school-related activities without fear or exclusion or stigmatization.

Says Adams, “Most people have a very poor understanding of T1D and the seriousness of this auto-immune disease.  Our son plays hockey so everyone thinks he (and we) must be managing well.  What they don’t see is that it is a careful management strategy hour by hour and when he is not with us we take numerous extra precautions. We need a system in place to safeguard his well-being at school.”

Take Action – Do you live in one of the provinces with no provincial policy on diabetes management in schools? Please email your provincial representative today and demand a comprehensive policy that clarifies everyone’s responsibilities when it comes to protecting children with T1D at school.

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