Dealing with young non-diabetics

By | 28 June, 2012
Pwtwang! Archery, yesterday.

Pwtwang! Archery, yesterday.

As you’ll be able to tell from the tortured headline above I’ve recently been dealing with young non-diabetics. As I don’t have children I don’t often come into contact with the youth of today, so it’s an unusual experience for me.

However recently my niece and nephew (aged six and three respectively) have been over for a nice long stay from the United States where they reside for 48 weeks of the year. Before they arrived I had been thinking about the best way of covering the exciting topic of diabetes – should it come up. After all, using a pump or testing your blood glucose is quite a visible thing. And as we all know kids are always looking at things and asking questions – some people call this a natural inquisitiveness, I just call it downright nosey.

However, the topic didn’t really come up; despite some issues. For example, I took my niece (the six year old) to “Robin Hood and Little John Archery” or something equally cheesy. Unfortunately this coincided with a nasty hypo where I got down to about 2.5.

Despite the low BG I distracted the niece – “Look! A pink, sparkly unicorn!” – while I tested my BG and shoved a load of Lucozade tablets down my neck. Five minutes later all was fine and the niece was non-the-wiser. We then went on to fire a load of arrows all round the place – which was enormously fun and dangerous! Woo hoo!

A few days later the nephew briefly noticed my pump’s infusion set while I was bolusing for something. “What’s that?” He asked. “It’s an infusion set” I replied. This, perhaps surprisingly, seemed to entirely satisfy him and the matter was dropped. So much for that natural inquisitiveness I keep hearing about.

So that was that. But still the questions remains – what’s the best and simplest way of telling young people about diabetes? Being some sort of windy lawyer I would almost certainly go into too much technical details and reduce them to tears (that happens with adults too). So how do you deal with this sort of thing? And, if you were diagnosed young, when did you first understand your pancreatic affliction? Discuss.

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About Tim

Diagnosed with Type One when he was 28, Tim founded Shoot Up in 2009. For the diabetes geeks, he wears a Medtronic 640G insulin pump filled with Humalog and uses Bayer’s Contour Next Link blood glucose meter.

4 thoughts on “Dealing with young non-diabetics

  1. Annette A

    Just the other day, in the gym changing rooms, I had a small (2ish) child stare at me, point at my pump and ask ‘What’s that?’ (the mother smiled apologetically and said ‘you can’t have anything interesting with him around, I’m afraid.’)
    I said ‘Its my pump.’
    Child ‘What’s it do?’
    Me (to self): 2 years old, doesnt need details. (to child): It gives me my medicine.
    Mother (to child): It keeps her healthy, like sport does, remember?
    Child (to me) Are you healthy then?
    Me: Yes, I think so.
    Child wanders off, apparently happy with the exchange.
    So I would say, the best way is to face it head on and to treat it as totally normal and run of the mill, as that way the child learns that it is totally ‘normal’. Certainly my nephew and nieces dont think I’m different for having a pump, they just accept it as ‘Auntie Annette’s stuff’ in the same way they accept my brother in law is disabled following a stroke- its treated as normal and thats how they pick up on it.

  2. katherine cromwell

    Having explained to my sisters 3 children re injections and then making sure my own 3 know what to do if they find me hypo with pump I think honesty appropriate for the childs age is always best. It’s usually the parent who finds it embarrassing or worse still hates the sight of needles and screams at you to go elsewhere whilst you inject. I took great delight in performing the shoot up ritual with my pen and prolonging my performance just so mother would squirm! Such fun!!

  3. lady up north

    My eldest son was 18 months old when I was diagnosed with T1. My younger son was born after diagnosis. They have been brought up to think “Mum’s got diabetes” much as they think “Mum’s got brown hair”.
    They have both always known if I am unconcious that I need help and now aged 19 and 24 are excellent at spotting hypos and highs and dealing with them appropriately.
    Aged 5 my eldest son phoned an ambulance when he was unable to wake me up (I didn’t know he even knew how to do this), got baby out of the cot and gave him a plate of biscuits for breakfast, answered door to ambulance men. My little hero !
    I think that children should be told the truth about diabetes, but in a way suitable for their age. After all, a non diabetic 5 year old doesn’t need to know about blindness and amputations, but does need to know where the Lucozade is kept and that they must not drink it as it is “Mummy’s medicine drink”.

  4. Dave

    Spot on @ladyupnorth ! Mine are 6 and 4 now and we’ve had discussions with both on what to do if they find Dadeither not responsive or stumbling round the house. Coke and Fruit Pastilles are Dad’s special medicine.

    In relation to the pump and set changes etc they’ve both witnessed and o asthers have said just take it all in their stride. Children have a wonderful ability to accept anything before being conditioned to only believe in ‘normal’.

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