With over 20 kids in a typical classroom, it seems like there is a birthday celebration every other week. Not to mention all the incentive parties and holiday celebrations!
It’s no wonder moms of children with type 1 diabetes get frustrated. Same goes for those with Celiac disease and food allergies. All we want for our children is for them to feel normal and participate in these celebrations like their classmates.
So what can you do when cupcakes appear at school for the 15th time this school year? Consider trying one or more of these four great strategies to help your child celebrate.
1. Snap a Snack-Time Selfie
Tonya H., mom of 7-year-old Charlotte, has the school nurse text her a photo of any unexpected classroom treats — since not all cupcakes, donuts, and slices of pizza are created equal. When she can at least “see” the treat, she feels more comfortable estimating the carb count and sending the info back to the nurse for dosing.
2. Stock an Alternate Stash
“In an ideal world, every parent would let me know when they were sending in a birthday treat, and I could figure out the carbs ahead of time so my son could enjoy the treat with the rest of his class,” says Diane H., mom of 9-year-old Brent. Because that’s not always the case, she leaves a box of treats with a known carb count in the nurse’s office so that no guessing is needed. Ironically, sometimes the other kids want Brent’s alternative snack too!
I do something similar to Diane. Because my child has food allergies in addition to diabetes, I bake up a batch of homemade cupcakes that meet her dietary needs a couple of times each school year. I send them in to the nurse, who keeps them in the clinic freezer. She takes one out about 30 minutes before a classroom celebration, and it’s thawed and ready to go.
Of course, birthday cupcakes aren’t the only food that shows up in class. Amanda J., mom of 9-year-old Brody, points out that often school projects and class rewards involve candy. Because her son has type 1 diabetes and Celiac disease, he often needs alternate treats that are safe for him to eat. When they use candies for counting or give them as a reward, she supplies ones that Brody can have, in addition to the cupcakes and brownies she has stashed in the freezer at school. Teachers contact her when they know something is coming up so she has plenty of time to procure a item similar to what’s being used in the lesson (if necessary) or to get a carb count for the nurse.
3. Schedule Treat Time
Carla Q., mom of 8-year-old Michelle says, “I always felt that she should not feel different or be left out because of diabetes.” They have more flexibility now that her daughter is using an insulin pump. When she was on multiple daily injections, the teacher worked it into the daily schedule that any special classroom treats would be had right after lunch. The nurse would add the carbs to Michelle’s lunch count, and she wouldn’t need an extra injection.
4. Ask Your Teacher About Going Food-Free
Heather K., mom of 6-year-old Riley, says that because of multiple food allergies among kids at school, the teacher has decided that there will be no treats in the classroom. “It’s a food-free class, and I love it,” she says. Parents who want to celebrate a child’s birthday with treats must do so during lunch in the cafeteria and give advance notice.
With so many options to try, children with type 1 diabetes should be able to enjoy school celebrations right alongside their classmates. Says Amanda, “I think communication and flexibility are key. Our son gets to participate equally, and that’s very important to us.”
About the author: Leighann Calentine lives in the Midwest with her husband and two children, one of whom was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of three. She is the author of a book for parents of children with diabetes and can be found on D-Mom.com where she shares her family’s story.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.