Sunday, January 30, 2011

Diabetes + School = A Pickle

OH MY GOSH!  How do you parents of school-aged kids with diabetes do it?!

Honestly, I’m in a bit of a pickle.

Okay.  It’s not entirely a pickle, per se.  I’m pretty sure I know what I need to do here.  Let me lay it down for you:

So, Jenna started junior kindergarten last week.  Now, keep in mind that Jenna has just undergone a major life shake-up, having just moved.  You may also want to factor in the fact that Jenna has been by my side almost constantly since she was born.  Her diagnosis was at 2 years of age -  I didn’t go back to work after I had her, and her diabetes has made it difficult to be away from her for any longer than 2-3 hours at any one time.  I have had no weekends away - no days at work... nothing.  So Jenna is accustomed to me being there.

Now, developmentally speaking, I know that she is at an age where she can handle school.  She is very ready for the classroom environment and to start the formal, structured learning process.  Developmentally speaking!

Emotionally, however?  All things considered?  Not so much.

She cried.  A LOT.  She did not want me to leave her.  We tried, my husband and I.  And it would be one thing if we could just go and not return until the end of the day.  But, since the school hasn’t had a chance to arrange special needs care -- heck, they don’t even have a diabetes protocol prepared yet!  And since it isn’t clear which province will be footing the bill for said special needs care due to our recent move from the west coast, I must be available twice in the day to check Jenna’s blood sugar and administer her insulin while the school gets its ducks in order.  Furthermore, since no one in the school has any solid knowledge about type 1 diabetes, I am incredibly uncomfortable leaving her for any length of time anyway!  It’s all those what ifs we know all too well. What if she goes low?  What if she goes high?  What if she goes so low she requires glucagon?

Anyway, I’ve been somewhat consumed by this over the weekend.  Should I persist and bring her again tomorrow?  Should I insist on staying with her in the classroom until she is comfortable?

Or maybe I should just let it go for now -- maybe even skip the junior K experience altogether and wait until next September to start senior K.  By then we will have moved into our permanent home and we will be more settled - more stable.  Jenna will have had a chance to get her bearings - maybe even develop a strong desire to start school.

I should tell you that Jenna is strongly in favour of that last option.  And I want to take her feelings into account here.  She may only be 4 and 3/4 years old, but she has been through a lot.  She knows what she needs in some respects.  And right now, I believe her when she says she isn’t ready.  I trust her when she tells me “I just want to wait until I’m a little older, Mommy.”

Furthermore, the school isn’t ready for Jenna’s diabetes.  They are clearly daunted by idea of a type 1 diabetic, junior kindergartener right now. They are intimidated by it.  (To give credit where credit is due, they have asked a lot of the right questions and have attempted to see to our needs - this, in spite of having to talk myself down when they recommended I conduct her blood sugar checks and insulin bolusing in a “handicapped bathroom” located at the end of a long hallway, a considerable distance from the kindergarten classroom -  a suggestion that smacked of discrimination and an attempt to hide the perceived blood and gore away from all those “fragile little kindergarten minds."  But that is another post I will write very soon.)

And to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’m ready to entrust her diabetes care to a stranger.  I’m feeling hyper-protective of Jenna right now in light of all the changes she has endured.  And I’m not sure I’m up for the task of educating those requiring education and dispelling the myths and prejudices to make this school diabetes-friendly.  Not just yet.  I have a lot on my plate right now and the task of educating and preparing the school is one that requires my full attention and a great deal of preparation.  If I wait, I will have the next seven months to do just that.  And that might just make a huge difference in how both Jenna and I feel about her starting her scholastic journey.

If anyone has any advice, resources or ideas regarding how to make this school a safe place for Jenna, I’d been keen on hearing from you.  I’ve been told by the office staff that Jenna will be the first child with type 1 diabetes they have had in attendance, as hard as that is to believe.  I think I have my work cut out for me.


Jenna has been attending her junior kindergarten class with me present.   Initially, I decided to wait until next September to start her in senior kindergarten.  But after talking to the principal about this and being assured that Jenna’s school day duration could be shortened to accommodate her anxiety, and after being told I could remain in the class as long as I like,  I decided to persist.  Jenna has gradually increased her stay each day and now remains until the end of the school day.  I have been gradually decreasing the amount of time I am present in the classroom in an attempt to get her accustomed to being on her own.  She is doing incredibly well - even telling me “I’m fine, Mom.  You can go now.”

However, I am only absent for about an hour and a half at a time right now, provided her numbers are in a good range and she has eaten well prior to my departure.  There is still no funding for additional assistance from a nurse to do blood sugar checks and administer insulin for snacks and there has been no education aide assigned to Jenna specifically to watch for signs of trouble.  Furthermore, I have yet to do any diabetes teaching with the staff so I am not comfortable leaving Jenna for a prolonged length of time.  Next week I have made arrangements to conduct teaching with several staff members.  I will also be supplying an emergency kit to the classroom to perform checks and treat any lows.  This should help with my peace of mind a little.

I would like to thank all you amazing, clever Moms who gave me such awesome advice and tips and pointed me in right direction for resources and support.  I am so grateful to you all.  


Alexis Nicole said...

Yay for you blogging! Ive missed you!

Well where do I start. The bathroom? Wow. Justice got dxed mid year of kindergarten and it was 1/2 day. We had a 504 put into place and they were equipped for lows and emergency situations such as a lock down.

But until this day we go to the school to bolus J for highs or lunch. But he can check his bg or they will whenever needed or I have scheduled.

I understand if theyre anxious about administering insulin but they need to be able to do a bg check and handle a low. Do they have 504s over there?

Id check out JDRFs site...


Unknown said...

Ugh. I remember those days. OH HOW I REMEMBER THEM SO VIVIDLY!!!!

Nicole lives in Canada and she's been working hard to bring awareness to the schools in her area. She may be a really great resource for you!!!

Keep us posted!

Renata said...

Well, I think it's a combination of the two situations. The biggest being the school isn't ready. Maybe you should wait until senior kindergarten (OK, I have only been out of the States for a year and a half...when did we get a junior and senior kindergarten??) Maybe waiting will give you time to help get the school sorted. Get the right assistance for them and your daughter. Also, if she isn't ready and you know the school isn't in a position to seems like you are asking too much and something is going to fall thru the cracks.

In moving to New Zealand, you would think T1 Diabetes is a foreign disease. I have to train every year, they truly don't know jack and my kids are older. I still fret for my youngest, 11, and worry that the teacher and school will know what to do. And yours is only 4 1/2. Just take it easy and make sure everything is in place and everyone is prepped. They don't have to comfortable with it, you do. It's good that the school is worried. But you needent be...I say wait. (if you didn't catch my drift!)

Unknown said...

Educating a school is a lot of work. A ton. I have done it for a few years now (there are many cheat sheets etc on the tab on my blog labeled "Docx for Education") and Nicole from We Caralot has been doing a lot of work to ensure the safety of children in her Province, as Wendy stated.

In reading and re-reading and thinking about your post...and recently moving (only across town mind you), I think that perhaps the "waiting" option may be the best for you, for Jenna, for getting everything in order. You definitely know your situation, your child, your ability to juggle the move, the education, and "d"...I am confident in whichever you choose it will work out OK for your family Sherry.

Good luck...and how is it going so far?

Joanne said...

I went through some of the same questions when we were debating about putting Elise in pre-school. She was dx'd at 12 months, and like you, I had spent every waking moment with her except for a few hours here or there. Elise really surprised me the day we dropped her off at school. I cried, she didn't.

Having said all that, it sounds like waiting would be best, especially since your daughter is at a point where she can actually articulate her wishes. As others have commented, Nicole might be a good resource for you, she's also in Ontario... the Windsor area, I believe.

And when you are ready for school, docs that other D-Moms have made available on their blogs have been so helpful for us.

sysy said...

You made me cry...I wish you the best with the diabetes and school situation. I don't know how you do it! You know when I started kindergarten I had also never been away from my mom and it took a while for me to stop crying about leaving her to go to school. Eventually I was really happy to go... Then when I got diabetes at 11 it what a whole different issue for my parents-educating schools. They never felt entirely confident. I do remember teachers asking me to test when I looked sleepy or anything other than my normal self. Anyway, you're a smart lady, do what you feel you should do. We'll be here wishing you and your daughter the best!

Lorraine of "This is Caleb..." said...

I think your heart is already leading you in a direction. I believe you should follow your heart.

I tend to make decisions for Caleb without consideration to D and then work D into the mix. So I ask myself, what would I do if he didn't have diabetes? It's easy because I know what I did with Colin. So I let that lead me.

The second part, however, is not always, if ever, easy - working D into the mix. It can in fact be exhausting and deflating.

I still go back to do what you feel is right deep down inside. As long as you don't have a nagging feeling with whatever decision you choose, all will be good.

Unknown said...

:) on the update Sherry!

FatCatAnna said...

Wow - I wish I had had a Mum like you!!! T1's in the 1960's were like a needle in a haystack - I guess I was a freak of nature (but cute one - aren't we all at that age?). I was just trundled off to school - with my Lifesaver package / raisins - and my teachers were informed of my condition. Later on in life, I have had friends tell me they were jealous of me when I was eating my snacks. Made me laugh with that comment - like - you wanna trade me your pancreas that works for mine that doesn't work !
Anyway, give her time to adjust with you by her side. In the end, she will become more independent, just like all of us that have had T1 since early age. We are stronger then you think - but still - be the great Mum that you are. My Mum never had this the support of all you D-Mums - and sometimes I wonder if she would have enjoyed the closeness we all share with dealing with diabetes with our children / ourselves! When I talk to my Mum about what all happens now with the Interent - she just says that's nice (in her British voice - very prim and proper). She just coped on her own - with what information was out there at the time for young T1's - and I'm still here - alive and kicking to say "Thanks Mum! Thought do I really REALLY have to eat that liver?".

sweetmystery6 said...

based off of your update - i'm so glad that things are going better and easier for both of you <3

Hua said...

Glad to see that things are improving.