Jen: How a School Can Make All the Difference

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Surprisingly, James has recently transformed into a really amazing student at school. I admit, nobody was more shocked at his progress than me! As a kindergartener, he was so energetic that he was constantly in trouble with his teacher, which is what prompted me to home-school him. When I placed him back in school last year for second grade, I was so pleased to see that he had blossomed into a diligent, proficient student!

This year we decided to move him over to a local charter school. This school is highly desirable in our area and has a lottery system for admission. Part of its appeal is that it goes through the eighth grade, and since we moved around a bit in James' early years, it was attractive to think that, once admitted to this school, he'd be set until high school.

On a whim, when I had a rare child-free afternoon, I stopped by the school office and put in my lottery application. Many kids never get in; it's simply too small to admit all those who are interested, and families have to wait patiently for a spot to open up. So imagine my surprise when the very next DAY James was admitted!

In perhaps a testament to how optimistic we've been feeling lately about James' type 1 diabetes, I neglected to mention his condition to the school's learning director. Then, as I reviewed my interaction with the school staff, it occurred to me that we didn't once discuss diabetes. I found myself in a situation where James showed up on the very first day of school, and we didn't have a diabetes plan in place!

That first day was insane. I walked James to his new classroom, and then I walked straight into the office. I was lucky to find that the school health clerk is quite familiar with diabetes. Not only does she have a few students at the school with type 1, but one of them just happens to be in James' third-grade class. In fact, I later learned that this particular teacher is good friends with the other child's mother, and since the other child was only recently diagnosed, this teacher had spent the summer learning about diabetes. Wow. I didn't anticipate that. What an incredible blessing to have a teacher with that kind of sensitivity and training!

The school health clerk has been a true joy to work with. I've come to expect a certain amount of push-back with school officials. Not so at this new school. As we discussed James, the attitude the health clerk assumed was, "What do I need to do to keep your child safe?" These are truly the words every parent of a child with diabetes hopes to hear at school!

This positive attitude from the staff and other students has had an impact on him. We were recently preparing his "All About Me" poster. Just like it sounds, this poster was a chance for the kids to tell about themselves. It asked questions like, "What is my favorite pet" and "My talents are," etc. One portion of the chart says, "Three interesting things about me." In a departure from how he felt about diabetes last year at school, James boldly listed, "I have diabetes" as one of his three interesting things. This warms my heart. It means that while he now understands that diabetes sets him apart, he is not ashamed of it. It has become a part of him -- a part that he accepts and is willing to share with his friends. This progress, like his academic improvements, is surprising to me and very, very welcome!

 


About the author: My name is Jennifer, and I live in Southern California with my husband, Craig, and our three boys. Our oldest son James has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. I'm thankful for this opportunity -- along with my sister-in-law Kim and her daughter Kaitlyn, who also has type 1 diabetes -- to share our struggles and triumphs with our friends in the diabetes community.

Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

Related topics:
Set Up Your Child for a Successful School Year
Jen: The Spectrum of School Care
Transitioning to Middle School

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