Diabetes remark leaves a sour taste

21st March 2003 at 00:00
I WAS disappointed to read Jean Gemmell's comment (TES, March 7) that parents can use diabetes as an excuse for bad behaviour in their children.

Children with diabetes know more about self-discipline, responsibility and restraint than most adults. They face a daily choice: life or death.

Staying alive means an inflexible regime of insulin injections, blood testing and mealtimes. There is no time off from managing the condition, ever.

Sometimes this inflexible regime collides with the rigid structure of the school day. At my son's school the late morning break means that he needs a snack during period two. This is not easy when you do not want to seem different. In addition, children with diabetes face a trial of resistance to the bombardment of sweets marketing.

During puberty blood sugar levels in young people with diabetes are even more volatile. Exercise, eating the right food at the right time (not always easy in the school day), anxiety, illness and tiredness contribute to rapid and unexpected rises and falls, which, of course, make a difference to how well a child feels. Who would not find it hard to concentrate as their blood sugar drops to low levels making them feel weak and sick? A teacher regarding this as bad behaviour could risk having an unconscious casualty in the classroom.

The children I know with diabetes are managing it responsibly and positively, but it is never easy. Lack of understanding from some adults is an added burden. Thankfully, since he was diagnosed at the age of nine my son has had teachers with sensitivity to his needs.

Kathryn Mawson

11 Teal Road

Brough, East Riding of Yorkshire

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