Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Diabetes Support at School
Starting a Group

by Debra Madaris Efird

Guest speaker
Another idea for a session is to invite a guest speaker, ideally an older teenager who is coping successfully with diabetes. The school nurse may be able to contact the nurse at a nearby high school to recommend a student who is thriving (the idea, of course, is to generate a positive influence). It’s advisable to schedule this meeting at the end of the school day for the convenience of the high school student. With college students, it may be necessary to schedule the meeting when they are on spring or winter break. If there are transportation problems, perhaps a school counselor or nurse can fetch the student.

It’s wise to prepare some questions together at the previous meeting that group members can ask in case they suddenly freeze up. As usual, the leader can write the questions, cut them into strips, and throw them into that faithful basket for group members to draw from. Here are some examples of questions students may wish to ask:

  • How does diabetes affect driving and obtaining your driver’s license?
  • How does it affect dating?
  • Do your parents still bother you with questions about your blood sugar?

Attitude scenarios
By midyear the students will know each other and the group leader well. It’s a safe time to talk about choosing the attitude that they will carry through all of the special situations they find themselves in. The group leader can write scenarios on — you guessed it — strips of paper, and pass the basket. Here are some ideas for possible scenarios:

  • Maria did not do her homework because she was watching Monday night football instead. She tells her teacher that her diabetes was acting up last night.
  • Shane is having a rough day with his diabetes. He has ketones and must go home from school. A classmate says, “Lucky you. You get to go home.”

There won’t be a pause of two seconds before discussion erupts! Some members of the group will recognize themselves in these scenarios and openly admit to exhibiting negative attitudes at times. It’s all right for the students to freely express themselves and to chide one another, but the leader should keep it from becoming vindictive.

JDRF activities
Each year the JDRF organizes a variety of awareness and fund-raising activities, including walk-a-thons in hundreds of U.S. cities. If your school gets involved in any of these activities it’s a great time to promote the positive side of being “special” for students with diabetes. Perhaps they can be included as speakers on school video announcements or at assemblies — if they want to be, of course. Or the support group could perform a skit at a diabetes-themed event. If a JDRF walk is being held in your town, this can also become a group project. Even if only a few students participate, it is still a great way to lift up the cause.

Life-size board game
One of the most fun sessions (best saved for near the end of the school year) involves playing a simple game in which group members step toward or away from a finish line according to directions drawn from that well-used basket. First, the group leader lays out ten large pieces of construction paper in a line on the floor. This should be done outside if the school has a courtyard or sidewalk that is not heavily trafficked.

Each student then takes a turn by drawing a slip from the basket. Once everyone has had a turn, the same order is cycled through again until someone reaches the finish line.

Here are some examples of instructions to write on the slips:

  • You don’t tell your mom when you run out of snacks at school. Go back 1 space.
  • You choose to do your health report on Type 1 diabetes to educate others in your class. Go forward 2 spaces.
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