Do your kids ever overreact at the slightest hint of illness? Or fake one altogether to get out of something they don’t want to do? Have they ever used their type 1 diabetes as an excuse for not doing something that’s expected of them?

Kaitlyn is not one to play sick — she never has been. But a few weeks ago, there was an incident at school in which she and the entire staff overreacted.

I was driving home from a field trip for my preschooler when I got a call from Kaitlyn’s school health clerk. Usually, she greets me with a perky, “Everything is fine here at school,” so that she doesn’t worry me unnecessarily. This time was different though. She greeted me with a calm but urgent hello and proceeded to tell me that Kaitlyn had come to her office from PE after doing some jump roping and that she was acting very unresponsive. Her blood sugar level was fine, but she was dizzy, had a headache, and was having a hard time responding to simple questions. The health clerk had already called the district nurse, who was on her way, and asked that I come to the school as soon as I could.

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t worried. Any normal mom would probably be panicking by this point. For some reason though, I just knew that Kaitlyn was fine and that she was probably overreacting a little bit. She was probably tired and maybe overexerted herself from the exercise, but she wasn’t in danger of anything more serious.

I went to the school right away, just to see for myself and make the health staff feel better. But by the time I got there, Kaitlyn was definitely fine. She had a tired face and was talking in a quiet voice, but she said she felt okay. The district nurse got there soon after I did and took her blood sugar again, which was fine. She took her pulse and her blood pressure and had her walk around the room — all fine. I asked Kaitlyn if she felt like she was going to faint or throw up, but nope — she was okay there too. After a few minutes of talking with her, we decided that she was ready to go back to class, and I went home. But Kaitlyn and I had a long conversation after school about the proper way to react to people when they’re asking about how you feel, even if you’d rather come home than stay for a PE class.

The honest truth is that we treat Kaitlyn differently because she has diabetes. We all, especially school staff and nurses, have to be a lot more careful with her because she happens to have a potentially life-threatening disease. I’d much rather be overly cautious with her than the opposite, and I’m really grateful that the nurses and staff are so attentive and caring. However, I believe that Kaitlyn has an important job to do. She needs to be a little bit more accurate and optimistic about how she feels, even if she’s doing an activity that’s tiring or that she doesn’t especially like. She needs to use proper body language, facial expressions, and a strong voice to answer questions and describe how she feels. It’s no wonder that teachers and nurses got worried when she was sluggish and frowny and responded to questions in barely more than a whisper.

Diabetes brings its challenges for sure, but I know that Kaitlyn is strong and that she can be her own advocate. My goal is to teach her that diabetes is not an excuse or a crutch and that it can make her stronger and more determined in every way.

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. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.

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