Diabetes and the early childhood years

‘Supporting a family with a child who has type 1 diabetes will be a big test of how well services implement their “idea” of partnerships, and how they support each family.’

A carefree approach isn’t for everyone

Attending an early childhood service should be fun for any child; it should be about playing outdoors and not worrying about carrying jelly beans with you; it should be about eating as much or as little lunch as you want and not worrying about how many serves you are eating and not entering this data into an insulin pump. For a child with type 1 diabetes this isn’t the case; their whole life is about food intake, insulin injections, routines and hospital visits—for the rest of their lives.

Vital partnerships

As early childhood professionals we come across many hurdles and obstacles, but we always manage to overcome them and should be proud of our achievements. Mastering anaphylaxis and asthma training, while striving for high quality within our services, is a good example of this. So the next obvious challenge is tackling type 1 diabetes and giving our children and families an environment where they will feel safe, secure and supported.

We always say to ourselves we work in partnerships with our families, but how true is this? Supporting a family with a child who has type 1 diabetes will be a big test of how well services implement their ‘idea’ of partnerships, and how they support each family. Sometimes we don’t even touch the surface.

Setting the record straight

Before you read on you need to understand a few things about type 1 diabetes, as there are many myths and stigmas surrounding diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes is very serious; it is life long and insulin is not a cure.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto immune condition which means the child developed it through no fault of their own.
They didn’t eat lollies growing up, nor were they overweight.
Type 1 diabetes is very different from type 2 diabetes, which is generally associated with being overweight and controlled with diet, exercise and tablets.

I have now lived with type 1 diabetes since January 1999 and in that time completed my Diploma of Children’s Services and most recently my Advanced Diploma of Children’s Services. So I can understand the stress this profession has—and with all the accreditation, daily routines, new regulations and the requirements of the Early Years Learning Framework that we need to abide by—I know it’s a very scary thought having a child with diabetes in our care.

Support solutions

There is lots of support out there for staff adapting to caring for a child with type 1 diabetes. Most of the time that support will come from the parents themselves. There are also professional groups that can organise a speaker to come to your service to educate the staff about type 1 diabetes. I am also available to come to services to talk to staff.

For more information, please contact the following organisations:

Diabetes Australia Victoria
1300 136 588
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation
Diabetes Kids and Teens
(A branch of Diabetes Australia NSW)
Jason Triggs
Jason Triggs is an early childhood professional with an Advanced Diploma of Children’s Services. He also has type 1 diabetes and works as an early childhood consultant in Type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes and the early childhood years by Jason Triggs was featured in Every Child Vol. 16 No. 4—New directions. Click here to purchase your copy today!