WITH QUALITY EDUCATION AGAINST IGNORANCE AND FEAR – 1st part
It has been proven countless times that knowledge and skills of educators are being expanded through education, that their opinions about chronically ill children are being affected in order for unnecessary restrictions, which often come out of ignorance and fear, to be avoided. Communication with the parents of the ill child is being made easier. In addition to that the relationship with the sick child is being improved. All of that helps in the process of including the diabetic child into the community which has an extremely important role in its overall development.
Diabetes is a chronic disease which, with its complexity and a demanding way of treatment, affects the patient’s entire life, especially the children and their families. As well as any other chronic disease, it should be treated and controlled since its discovery while keeping in mind its health, psychological and social implications. Active participation in the upbringing and the education are also affected by this disease. Research has shown that social interactions with peers are the foundation for the child’s development and socialisation. Best case scenario, those relationships can contribute to the child’s highest achievements and its social and mental growth.
Beside parents and health workers, a great role in caring for children who suffer from Type 1 diabetes lies with educational workers in kindergartens, elementary schools and highschools. Although children are successfully included in the educational system thanks to the great engagement of parents and educational workers, a part of the parents whose children suffer from diabetes are confronted with the difficulties regarding the full integration of their children into schools and kindergartens.
By providing quality information, continued support and increased knowledge of Type 1 diabetes, competencies and safety of the whole educational staff members in kindergartens and schools, regarding the work and care which is done for diabetic children, is being raised.
For that purpose, Agency for Nurture and Education has been organising professional gatherings under the title „Children with diabetes in the educational institutions“ for the past 20 years, and since 2016, the Croatian Agency for VET and Adult Education has been actively involved in the organisation of the meetings. The education is organised in cooperation with a team of experienced lecturers from Pediatrics Department at KBC Zagreb (Chief of Medicine, doctor Jasenka Ille, PhD Marina Grubić, pedagogue Ivanka Gregorinčić and senior nurse Jasna Radanović) and it includes information about the diabetes, blood sugar control, healthy diet, insulin therapy, the importance of cooperation with parents, ways to solve possible complications and practical demonstrations. The last gathering was held in early October and, although due to epidemiological measures it was organised remotely, it gathered around 500 educational workers who work in kindergartens, elementary schools, preschools and boarding schools.
It has been proved countless times over the last two decades that knowledge and skills of the educators are improved by their ongoing education. In addition to that, it is visible that the mentioned education affected their views of a chronically ill children (in that way all the unnecessary restrictions, which are often a result of ignorance and fear, were avoided), that it made the communication with the parents of the sick children much easier, that the relationship with the ill children was improved and that it altogether helped with accepting the child who is suffering from diabetes into the community which has a significant role in its psychosocial development.
Because of the way it spreads and constantly grows in frequency, diabetes is an important health issue of humanity. These global changes concern both the children and the adolescents and it is a known fact that the increase in incidence of Type 1 diabetes in children grows 3 to 5 percent annually, while Type 2 diabetes occurs at a young age. There are over 1000 children with diabetes in Croatia, and that number keeps getting higher and higher.
The needs of children with diabetes and their families are specific and they differ from the needs of adult patients, which can be clearly seen in guidelines for the diagnostic and treatment of Type 1 diabetes in children and adolescents which were designed by the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetics. The guidelines also state that both children and their families require the holistic approach, that is a practical, flexible and age appropriate treatment which enables them to participate in everyday activities, while reducing psychological and chronic complications.
DIABETES IS NOT AN OBSTACLE FOR ANYTHING
Considering that children with diabetes and their peers spend most of their time in kindergartens and schools, we consider it is necessary to inform the educators, teachers and professors about the basic principles of diabetes management. The guidelines brought by the International Association for Diabetes in Children and Adolescents clearly state that diabetes cannot be an obstacle for their education, that it can’t be a reason to exclude them from any sort of activities and that the social integration in kindergartens and schools is extremely important. So, the educators need to be educated in order to increase the safety of children with diabetes, especially in sports, field trips and extracurricular activities – says the psychologist, PhD Marina Grubić and reminds that children who feel sure of themselves and who have a developed sense of self-respect concerning the functioning at the school, have a greater control of their diabetes.
Given that kindergartens and schools offer plenty of ways and advice on how to build up your self confidence and develop your social skills, it is important that children with diabetes are involved in all sorts of activities, with less restrictions. Psychosocial adjustment to diabetes means that a child is content, that he feels successful at school, sports, hanging out with his peers, while not letting diabetes become a restriction in his everyday life. Ofcourse, there are some obstacles for good psychosocial adjustment, primarily concerning the stigmatisation regarding the viewpoints, beliefs and behaviours towards children with diabetes, as they differ from their peers. That sort of a relationship can affect the exclusion from the activities. It can also cause negative interactions with other children and lower expectations of educators and teachers. The most common prejudices regarding children with diabetes are that the diabetes is contagious, that they got the diabetes because of the stress, that they have huge limitations to their diet, that they can’t do sports, that they have a limited choice of occupations which they can do in life and that they need to avoid stressful situations.
In order for children with diabetes to have less difficulties in the adaptation process, one should know the sorts of experiences and reactions of their parents. At the beginning of the disease all of them have an expressed sense of fear and they ask themselves a lot of questions: Can my child play without supervision? What if his blood.sugar level drops? Will the educator or the teacher take responsibility? Will they treat him as well as they treat all the other children?
Due to being worried, those parents are much more likely to become overprotective and lenient while raising their child which can make his social growth more difficult. It is important to help them to allow their child to live in the same way he did before the illness, to take part in all the activities and to get the same treatment as other healthy children. Pupils can have difficulties in schools because of possible avoidance, teasing and exclusion from their peers. They can be exposed to pity and permissiveness, lower expectations, unnecessary limitations and interpretations of their qualities and behaviours only as a consequence of their disease.
Because of that it is important that educators and teachers are informed of all the aspects of living with diabetes in order to help the child, in order to understand his behaviour and for them to explain to the other children what that illness is. In that way the parents would feel much safer and they could openly talk about the disease. Teachers can inform the child’s peers by organising a meeting involving the child, his parents and teachers. Also, they can organise a class or a conversation with the members of the medical team or they can encourage the student to come up with his own lecture so he can inform his peers – concludes Marina Grubić.
Author: Marijan Šimeg
The article was taken from the magazine „Školske novine“, number 5-6, February, 2021.