CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Liz MacArthur says when her son was in Grade 4, they had a scary moment when he got left behind while he was checking in with her about his diabetes on a field trip.
That’s the kind of situation that should be avoided under new guidelines announced Tuesday, Oct. 9 to help school officials manage the wellness of children with diabetes.
MacArthur’s son is now out of the school system, but in 2005, he was on a school field trip when he called his mother to check in like he did every day.
He wanted to know how much insulin he should take for the carbohydrates he needed.
However, while on the phone he realized something.
“Everyone’s left, I’m the only one here,” he told MacArthur.
His mom kept him on the phone until he found his teacher, but it’s a moment MacArthur hasn’t forgotten in the 13 years since. She says schools can benefit from the guidelines released Tuesday.
“I think it boils down to knowledge and awareness,” she said. “I think the school system doesn’t have that knowledge base. It is a scary thing when you see a child going into a low. It is frightening for the parents and is obviously frightening to someone who doesn’t know how to handle the situation.”
“I think it boils down to knowledge and awareness. I think the school system doesn’t have that knowledge base. It is a scary thing when you see a child going into a low. It is frightening for the parents and is obviously frightening to someone who doesn’t know how to handle the situation.”
MacArthur was at Tuesday’s announcement in Charlottetown with government officials and members of Diabetes Canada.
“I can speak from experience that these guidelines will help many kids and families prevent serious health consequences such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar),” she said.
The new regulations for P.E.I. encourage an individual care plan (ICP), along with training for all appropriate school personnel — everyone from bus drivers to classroom teachers and staff — to be able to recognize the symptoms of high or low blood sugar and provide assistance if necessary.
Health and Wellness Minister Robert Mitchell, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a few months ago, says he understands how difficult it can be to manage the disease.
“There is a learning curve even for me, how my medications effect things, dietary inputs, how I have to adjust those,” he said. “It is something we should all take time to become familiar with.”
The Department of Education collaborated on the new guidelines with the Department of Health and Wellness with input from Diabetes Canada.
Training will begin right away, said Mitchell.
“Teachers and staff, most of their work will be if the child has a low. The parents will manage the highs with insulin or the medication that is required. Periodically through the day a child can have an experience of low blood sugar. This will give (educational staff) an opportunity to understand what to do and how to react.”
New guidelines have been a longtime coming for some parents with diabetic children.
Angela Rogerson’s son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in Grade 3. Now he is in Grade 11.
“We have navigated the school system kind of on our own up to this point, advocating for him and making sure he was safe,” she said.
“I think moving forward, it is going to be a continuity of care and hopefully keep our children safe in school.”