Lara shows how support adds up in schools

Diabetes affects around 11,000 school-aged children and young people in Australia with more than 96 per cent living with type 1 diabetes, one of the highest rates in the world.


Those are the facts.


What are the realities for Queensland children living with type 1 diabetes and starting a new school year? How well supported are they?


Lara Everingham, 9, was first diagnosed with type 1 at age 7, and she says her school, St Peter's Catholic Primary School in Caboolture, is "really good".


This enthusiastic little girl, described by her mum as a "pocket rocket", got her Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) about 12 months ago, and says it's a lot better than having to check her blood glucose levels all the time.


Another thing that's helped is that she's no longer the only one at her school with type 1 diabetes.


"Last year I was the only one at school. This year a preppie (pre-schooler) has started and he's got diabetes too," Lara explained.


"It just makes me feel less alone."


Lara said the school "treats me the same as everyone else".


"They let me test in class and don't make me go into another room," she said.


"It's mostly my teacher helping me, asking me about my levels and how I am. The lady in the office is also very helpful. Before I got my CGM, she'd ask me how my levels were going and she'd write them in a book."


Lara's Mum, Melissa, goes one step further.


"The school is exceptional," Melissa said.


"Even with the CGM, when Lara went on school camp they checked her about 2am and saw she'd gone a bit low with all the activities and excitement.


"They rang me straight away and gave her some juice. They made sure she was right, then put her to bed the next night a bit higher. The teachers got up again to check her at 2am and there were no problems.


"Besides the extra care, they slot her in and she's treated like everyone else."


Lara said her Mum and brothers Harrison, 13, and Blake, 7, are very supportive, as well as her school friends, Olivia and Izzabella. Then there's the dance friends, the pony club friends, and ... well, you get the picture. Lara is one happy and busy little girl.


But some children aren't as lucky.


Diabetes Australia has just released " Diabetes in Schools", a report on the issues relating to a safe and supported environment for children and young people in schools and preschools in Australia.


It highlights there is a current lack of a clear and consistent national approach to supporting children with diabetes.


Diabetes Queensland CEO Michelle Trute said although Diabetes Queensland had been at the forefront of working with the state government as well as leading health professionals to first implement, then promote, Queensland-wide guidelines, Diabetes Australia was calling for a consistent program nationally and a more systematic approach to supporting children with diabetes at school and in childcare.


"We want every school to be as supportive as Lara's," Ms Trute said.


"We're concerned that many schools do not properly plan and prepare a safe and supportive environment for children with type 1 diabetes.


"Some kids miss out on normal activities and learning opportunities. They may also be vulnerable to stigma, distress and discrimination," Ms Trute said.


"Children with diabetes have the fundamental right to a normal school experience, including full participation in all educational, extracurricular and sporting activities.


"It's important the schools provide the support needed to ensure this happens."


Ms Trute said the national body was writing to all MPs and ministers at the national, state and territory level, calling for them to support a much stronger, nationally consistent approach.


With the help of two wonderful donors, G and A, Diabetes Queensland is also supporting children through an interactive Diabetes Basics for Kids online tool to help primary school students navigate living with diabetes.


It provides interactive games and activities, animations and videos.


The Diabetes Basics for Kids section complements the established Diabetes Basics website which includes Guidelines for Queensland Schools and a range of fact sheets and videos designed to help school staff. It is mobile and iPad friendly.


There is also Mastering Diabetes, a new resource released last year and sent to all Australian families with a student under 16 living with type 1 diabetes to help families, teachers and schools.


It has been designed to help teachers and families support children with type 1 diabetes at school and preschool, helping children to learn, grow and have fun. It is available as a PDF or an eBook.


Even with her supportive school and family, young Lara said diabetes sometimes makes her feel sad.


"I feel like I'm the only one who has it and I'm different from everyone else," she said.


"Then other times I feel happy because it makes me special."



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