Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Diabetes Support at School
Starting a Group

by Debra Madaris Efird

There can also be a number of “free space” strips; this means a free step forward. If the group uses up all the strips before someone has reached the final space, the strips can simply be put back into the basket and recycled.

End of the school year
The final meeting of the school year should feature a brief review of topics covered during the year. Since it will soon be vacation time, it may also be good to have a discussion about important considerations for traveling with diabetes. Topics to note include how time changes and flight schedules can make handling diabetes problematic, and how being out of a regular routine — such as during a long day at the beach — merits close attention to blood glucose levels. Also, students may have grown accustomed to having a nurse nearby for much of the day while in school, and they will now have to depend on themselves or on parents to manage their diabetes.

Finally, at this meeting the group leader should distribute an evaluation form. It should ask the students what they liked about the group, what they would change, what their favorite session was, and other pertinent information. This input can then be used to tailor sessions for the next year, so that when the students come back, they continue to be motivated by fun, thoughtful activities. This is only fair, given the humor, sincerity, and love that they will bring to the group.

Take action
If you are a parent of a child with diabetes and his school has no support group, don’t hesitate to show this article to the school counselor. Any counselor who has graduated from an accredited counseling program will have been required to study group work, including group dynamics, leadership, and group counseling theories and methods, as well as work directly with students in a small group activity as part of their education. (The accrediting body for such counseling programs is the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs, or CACREP). If the counselor has also had some previous experience leading support groups, so much the better. And if you’re concerned that the counselor doesn’t know much about diabetes, provide some help in this area by pointing the counselor toward some authoritative sources of information such as the JDRF or the American Diabetes Association.

If you are a school counselor who has been asked to start such a group, consider the immense benefit that a support group will give to students with diabetes. You have been provided with a plan in this article, and of course you can use your imagination to expand upon the activities or create new ones. Start a group and watch it take off! You’ll have no regrets.

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