I was just thinking.

An article in this week’s Science Times (NY Times, October 27, 2015) got me thinking. Do you know how your school system treats disabled students? Do you care? You should. Anyone of any age at any time can become disabled. You or a loved one can develop a chronic physical or mental “disease” or incur trauma with long-lasting consequences. A loved one can be born with a congenital condition. Imagine your child or grandchild develops a chronic but manageable illness. Then imagine that her school system refuses to allow her attendance because of it, whether she is attempting enrollment for the first time or has been an exemplary student for ten years.

Impossible! No, it is not. This is a situation that children with Type 1 diabetes face in many schools, public or private. The main reason given is that there is no one qualified to monitor blood sugar and give insulin or glucagon (for very low blood sugar) if necessary.

Type 1 diabetes was formerly known as juvenile or insulin-dependent diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was formerly known as adult onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes. However, the names were somewhat confusing because insulin-dependent diabetes can have its onset in adults and children can develop non-insulin dependent diabetes. It’s much easier to remember that in Type 1 diabetes the individual makes little or no insulin naturally in the pancreas. In Type 2 diabetes the pancreas makes insulin but the individual’s body is resistant to it and needs medication to help with the process.

So, what makes an individual qualified to test the blood for sugar levels and, if necessary, give insulin or glucagon (both injected)? Some school systems maintain (as does The American Nurses’ Association) that only a licensed nurse is qualified. Other school systems are willing to accept as qualified an adult volunteer who has been trained by a health professional. Some school systems, without a licensed nurse on staff, will not accept the volunteers or have no one willing to volunteer. Some schools say that a parent (or parent-designated adult) must come into the school to monitor the child. Other schools simply transfer the child to another school or, if a private school, simply say the child cannot attend.

Back to my thinking. If schools can do this when a child is newly diagnosed with diabetes (please read the Times article for the full story), what stops them from doing this when a child becomes disabled due to an accident? Is the problem the blood monitoring (aka, a “finger stick”) or the injection or the worry about a lawsuit? What happens to a newly disabled child who must have assistance with eating or who must have assistance to expel urine? What happens to any child who no longer fits the picture of “normal”?  What about the Americans with Disabilities Act?

I don’t know the answers to my questions, either in my school system or in any other. I’ve realized that this is a gap in my knowledge as a citizen. An even worse gap is that I don’t know where to find the answers. It’s election season. Maybe I should find out.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


My Recent Tweets

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.


%d bloggers like this: