B.C. parents lobby for in-school diabetes care
Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes have launched a petition against the B.C. government, saying it is failing their children by not providing in-school assistants who are trained to adjust insulin pumps.
Shirley Parsons, the mother of a third grader who requires daily insulin injections, said that the current provincial care plan discriminates against her child's disability.
"As parents, we feel the province is not taking Type 1 diabetes seriously enough," Parsons said.
Insulin pumps can be used to control insulin levels at any time, which means children with Type 1 diabetes no longer need a series of insulin injections every day.
Although some children require insulin pumps, the province hasn't authorized education assistants to monitor or adjust them. That can mean parents have to quit work, or leave several times a day, to go to their child's school.
Until this fall, Parson's son, eight-year-old Nicholas Kluftinger, said his diabetes caused his blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day, and he couldn't concentrate.
"I felt, like, kinda a bit feeling funny and stuff," he said.
That's because although his glucose was monitored, insulin injections were delayed. His blood sugar would peak or plummet before he was able to inject himself with help from his mom over the phone.
But now, under a pilot program in North Delta, an education assistant checks his blood sugar and then adjusts his insulin pump during the school day. Parsons said the pilot project is working for her family.
"For Nicholas, this means his EA is trained to push the buttons on his pump. That's something we do for him at home. And we asked for that so he could concentrate on his learning at school and he doesn't have to sit there for periods of hypoglycemia," she said.
But other school districts are not yet offering the service, even on a limited basis.
Lila Yewchuk said her son Zach has an insulin pump, but doesn't have anyone at his school in Surrey to push the buttons during the day.
"As it stands now, either myself or my nanny goes to the school every day, for at least lunch, and sometimes multiple times, to correct him when his sugars are high," she said.
Families in similar situations say that until the province makes some changes, the children won't be properly cared for.
Education Minister George Abbott said there are safety issues to address before any plan moves ahead.
"Clearly we have to have this structured in a way that not only is the child safe but also that the education assistants are proceeding with something they're qualified to do," Abbott said.
But Paul Kerslake, the Delta School District's principal for special programs, said the decision to undertake the pilot project made sense.
"Because it's so automated and has so many safeguards built into that technology, I would see it certainly as a reasonable approach to take."
With files from the CBC's Tim Weekes and Chad Pawson