Parental lobbying brings action to help diabetic studentsDecember 16, 2013
The B.C. government has responded positively to parents who have been lobbying for in-school support for diabetic students.
Starting next month, designated school staff will be trained to administer glucagon as an emergency response to severe hypoglycemia.
And next year, nurses will train and monitor certain staff to administer insulin for students who are not yet able to do it themselves, says a government letter.
The announcement was wonderful news for Dr. Lila Yewchuk and other parents who joined together in 2011 to advocate on behalf of their diabetic children.
“It had been a hard, often discouraging journey and I was expecting disappointment,” she wrote in an article titled A Sweet Surprise – When Advocacy Works. “But this was amazing news! What we had hoped for was not officially approved and available for all school-aged children with T1D (Type 1 Diabetes) in B.C.”
Before joining the group, Yewchuk and her husband had been advocating alone on behalf of their son, Zach, and pleading with school staff for more help, including administering insulin to younger children. “It made sense to us that a child not yet capable of reading or deciphering numbers could not comprehend the complexities of diabetes management and should not be in charge of administering his or her own insulin,” she wrote.
“We were always met with the same response: This task is too complex to delegate to a children’s educational assistant (EA). Yet the task is completely appropriate for a 4- or 5-year-old child to perform.”
The attitude toward the life-saving drug glucagon was also troubling, she said.
Although efforts were made in some cases to accommodate individual children, Yewchuk wanted a province-wide policy change so all students would receive the necessary care. “The most discouraging thing for me, as a mother and as a physician, was realizing how long the current school-care model had been in place – never challenged nor changed. We had expected the initiation for policy revisions to come from the medical community but, sadly, we realized it often falls to families.”
I wrote about this issue in 2011 after a North Vancouver father filed a human-rights complaint, alleging that the school system was discriminating against his son by refusing to provide insulin while administering different types of medication to other students. I interviewed parents who told me that the lack of support meant they had to visit their children’s school two or more times a day to ensure they were OK.
While Yewchuk is pleased with B.C.’s plan, she said advocacy in other provinces has not produced results. “B.C. is only the third province in Canada to provide such comprehensive care for students with type 1 diabetes. It is our hope that the rest of Canada will follow B.C.’s lead and institute similar, improved school care policy for the safety and well-being of children.”