Type 1 Diabetes and School BulliesElissa Renouf
My son, in his first year of high school and with Type 1, is being teased after having a hypo in class. He doesn’t want me to complain in case that makes it worse.
Having diabetes can make a child an easy target for bullies – seeing them get special treatment in the classroom (in case of a hypo, for example) or during and exam can lead to other children targeting them as a ‘teachers pet’ or similar. Likewise, some kids can’t resist ridiculing a classmate who does blood tests, has injections, needs to eat at social times or is allowed lollies in class when they are not – sadly, ganging up on someone who appears vulnerable or different is not unusual behavior in the age group.
Although targeting someone for a condition that they cannot help seems cruel, my take on it is that kids may use bullying a newly diagnosed child as a way of coping with their own anxiety and confusion about what has happened to a fellow pupil. I can understand your boy’s fear of drawing more attention by informing teachers, but ignoring the problem is unlikely to make it go away. If your child has been teased or victimised on account of his diabetes, it should be treated the same as any other incidence of bullying. Firstly you need to take it up with the appropriate person in the school system – it may be easily dealt with by talking to your child’s teacher (or teachers). In severe cases, it may be an issue for the school’s principal.
With my children, I have found that an upfront approach is the best prevention when it comes to bullying. Whenever one of my sons has moved to a new school, I organise a meeting with his teachers and explain his condition to them. I then ask them to show a short DVD on Type 1 Diabetes to my son’s class so he isn’t embarrassed in front of his peers. Having some understanding of the situation seems to discourage kids from bullying behavior.
If your child feels up to it he could show his diabetic gear to the class, explaining what everything is used for. This has always had a positive outcome for our family, as the other kids are generally intrigued. Bringing all this out into the open takes the mystery out of diabetes and once the others know more about his condition it doesn’t set my son apart.