Around 11,000 school-aged people live with type 1 diabetes in Australia
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition and the cause is not fully understood, nor is it preventable or curable.
There is nothing that a person has done to cause the condition. Type 1 diabetes develops when the pancreas stops producing insulin. Insulin is the hormone which transports glucose from the blood stream to the cells around the body where it is used for energy.
Without insulin, glucose builds up in the blood stream and can make a person extremely unwell. If someone is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes they must give insulin and check blood glucose levels for life. Insulin is a lifesaving medication.
Type 1 diabetes usually develops before 40 years of age. It is the most common type of diabetes found in children and young people. It is one of the main types of diabetes.
The other type of diabetes is type 2 diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not the same, however both are serious and complex conditions.
Managing type 1 diabetes at school
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body regulates blood glucose. It is a condition that needs decisions and actions to be made every day to keep glucose levels within a certain range.
Every day with type 1 diabetes is different. Every day, a student will need to consider how insulin, food and exercise will affect their glucose levels. It can be challenging to make so many daily decisions and act on them. Type 1 diabetes can affect a student’s health, how they feel and their ability to cope at school. Students and their families do their best to maintain glucose levels within a certain range by taking insulin every day. But this can be difficult, as food, physical activity, stress and illness all affect glucose levels.
Supporting a student with type 1 diabetes
Schools have a responsibility to provide a supportive environment for all students with a medical condition including students with type 1 diabetes.
School staff may be required to provide additional support to help students manage their type 1 diabetes and participate in school life like their peers. These supportive actions are called reasonable adjustments.
Schools and school staff might be required to support a student in a range of ways including:
- working with parent and carers to establish communication processes regarding a student’s day-to-day type 1 diabetes care (for example via a diary, phone calls or regular meetings);
- following a student’s diabetes management and action plan in relation to treating low and high glucose levels;
- providing a student with access to a blood glucose monitor, insulin and hypo treatment foods;
- ensuring a student has access to water (for drinking or to wash hands);
- allowing a student to eat at additional times in class or during physical activity;
- allowing extra bathroom access;
- making special considerations during exams and tests;
- providing some necessary supervision (e.g. insulin administration, blood glucose levels and pump management) if required;
- providing consideration for privacy when checking blood glucose levels and/or injecting insulin, if requested.
Young students may require additional support and guidance in managing their type 1 diabetes needs.
A student’s diabetes management plan is an essential document that that will guide how schools can support students to learn and participate fully in their school experience. The diabetes management plan will usually be developed by the student’s diabetes treating team in collaboration with the student and family.
School training and support
Diabetes in Schools is an information and training program designed to support schools and school staff to help students to manage their type 1 diabetes while at school.
The program provides 3 levels of training for schools:
- Level 1 Introductory training is designed for all school staff and provides basic information about supporting students with type 1 diabetes while at school. The training includes three short online modules. It’s recommended all staff undertake level 1 training.
- Level 2 Intermediate training is designed for designated school staff who volunteer to be directly involved in supporting students with type 1 diabetes. Training is available via nine online modules (for all schools) or via group education workshops (in some states). Training covers type 1 diabetes and food, monitoring glucose levels, insulin, managing lows and highs, physical activity, school camps and planning for changes. Training is general and is not specific to the needs of individual students.
- Level 3 Individualised Skills training is designed for designated school staff and focuses on the individual student’s type 1 diabetes management. This practical face-to-face training is delivered in the school by a qualified healthcare professional (where possible this will be a member of the student’s diabetes treating team). This is not yet available in all locations however increasing access is a key priority for the program.
Diabetes in Schools was developed by Diabetes Australia with support from the Australian Government,
the Australian Diabetes Educators Association, the Australian Diabetes Society,
the Australasian Paediatric Endocrine Group and JDRF Australia.