When we moved to Ohio I had more than one school tell me that they couldn’t take Isabella because of her diabetes. One even offered to enroll Max and Mia and suggested I homeschool Isabella. It’s true…and it’s not right.
An article in today’s New York Times highlighted the day to day struggles many families of children with type 1 diabetes are going through with receiving appropriate accommodations and support in school. Reading about the issues these families are facing just to receive basic care for their child – which they are entitled to under the law – makes me sad, angry and scared. As a parent my heart breaks to think about the discrimination Isabella and the many other kids battling T1D, and so many other disabilities, will face.
The most disheartening piece is that it’s not discrimination from peers that these families are dealing with, but from teachers and school staff. We were fortunate to have eventually found a school where the teachers and administration don’t view managing Isabella’s care as a nuisance (though I’m sure it is many days!). The following excerpt from the New York Times piece really struck me:
“At the beginning of the school year, she said, administrators sought staff volunteers to help with Owen’s care. None stepped forward, and “the school did not require any employee to serve as a volunteer.”
Over the past 2 1/2 years we have trained nearly a dozen teachers at Isabella’s school how to check her blood sugar and use her insulin pump. Many of these teachers and staff were not even Isabella’s classroom teachers…they ASKED to be trained so they could care for her if needed. That action alone speaks volumes and, to be honest, I already worry about next year when she moves to a new school and transitions to the unknown…
Will the teachers look at Isabella as a burden on their day?
Will checking her blood sugar be seen as a distraction instead of a potentially life-saving action?
Will the adults in charge play an ongoing game of “1-2-3 Not It!” when managing her daily care?
So, here is my appeal to all of you who work or volunteer in an educational setting: Please don’t underestimate the power of your small gestures when it comes to helping children with any type of disability or special need. We know that many of you are overworked and underpaid. We understand that taking on additional responsibilities is the last thing you want to add to your plates. We also know that, for us, the simple act of a teacher inquiring about the warning signs of hypoglycemia, or taking a few minutes to learn how to check Isa’s blood sugar, means more than you will ever know. As parents of a child with T1D, we can tell you that sending our child to school each day is scary enough and we need to know that our daughter is safe, and that her disease isn’t viewed as a hindrance by the school community. We hope that when the moment comes for you to be the one who steps up to help a student in your school, group or team, that you don’t feel like you’re managing an inconvenience. Instead, we hope you’ll remember that that child – and that child’s parents – need you on their team…and your kindness will not go unnoticed.
Cheers to Changing the World,