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Supporting a Child with Diabetes

January 7, 2013

melons and fruits

It’s really important that the child knows they have support, not just someone telling them what to do.

Michelle Perrone

A mother whose son has type-2 diabetes

Both Michelle Perrone and her 13-year-old son, John, have type-2 diabetes.

Perrone explained diabetes to John “on his level,” telling him how the body works with sugar and how his wasn’t working properly. In addition, she explained how energy wasn’t getting into the cells.

Since being diagnosed, the hardest change for John is that he can’t grab an apple or a cookie because he always has to be aware of his blood sugar levels. It’s also a challenge when he eats away from home.

Still, parents, like Perrone, are managing their child’s diabetes by providing support in various ways.

“It’s really important that the child knows they have support, not just someone telling them what to do,” she says.

Perrone helps her son check his blood sugar level every morning—he keeps his level consistent by eating more carbohydrates when it’s low, more protein when it’s high. Perrone admits that getting John to check his blood sugar can be difficult, but it helps to remind him that this is something he needs to have a long, healthy life.

“We are always making sure everyone around him knows what he needs to do,” Perrone says. “They check up on him, in case he forgets.”

She says he used to take insulin, too, but changes in diet, exercise and vitamins helped turn his insulin production around.

The Perrone family eats dinners without many carbohydrates, sometimes bread or rice on the side, and fruit for snacks. The family has always been active, which is important for keeping type-2 diabetes under control.

John likes to ride his bike and go hiking. But he needs to eat frequently on long hikes and monitor his blood sugar for a couple days afterward.

Having a support system has helped John learn about having a healthy lifestyle. He even reminds his mother about healthy eating habits.

“If I grab a handful of chips, he tells me that’s not good for me,” Perrone says. “We are the best support for each other.”

Support from schools

Parents can also be active in getting support from schools.

“If there is a school policy on locking up medication, it might make access to health care harder,” says Charlotte Lanvers, attorney for the Disability Rights and Education Defense Fund.

At the beginning of every school year, Perrone meets with school officials about John’s diabetes and his 504 plan. The plan documents how the school will accommodate John—letting him have snacks in class, leaving class when needed and visiting the school nurse once a day for a blood sugar test.

Perrone also meets with school staff about diabetic-friendly food options in the cafeteria.

“Parents should know who will implement the doctor’s orders at school, how absences will be handled, how medication is stored and who will care for their child,” Lanvers says.

Originally written by Angela Generoso.