Awareness of Students with Diverse Learning Needs,
What the Teacher Needs to Know, Volume 1

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Facts about Diabetes

Diabetes results from the failure of the body to produce insulin or the body’s failure to effectively use the insulin it produces.  The exact cause of this condition is unknown; however, genetic and environmental factors both play a part. Diabetes is not contagious.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas.  Carbohydrate (starch and sugar) from the food we eat is broken down into glucose in the digestive system.  This glucose then moves into the bloodstream to be used by the cells of the body to provide energy.  Insulin enables glucose to move from the bloodstream into the cells of the body.  Without insulin, glucose builds up in the bloodstream (high blood sugar), and the body’s cells are deprived of their energy source.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Occurs when the pancreas produces no insulin
  • Usually develops in childhood or adolescence
  • Affects 10% of people with diabetes
  • Affects approximately 1 in 500 children
  • Daily administration of insulin (via injection or insulin pump)  is required for life

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to meet the body’s needs and/or the insulin produced is not processed effectively by the body 
  • Usually occurs in adulthood, however is now being seen in a growing number of children/teens. Contributing factors may include obesity, lack of exercise, poor eating habits, family history of type 2 diabetes, and some particular racial backgrounds
Often managed through diet and exercise; however, some people also require medication (hypoglycemic pills or insulin by injection)

Blood Glucose Monitoring

Monitoring blood glucose is an essential component of diabetes management, as it indicates whether insulin, food intake and activity are appropriately balanced. Monitoring of blood glucose should take place before meals and any time low or high blood sugar is suspected.

Ways of Administering Insulin

Injection
Most individuals with type 1 diabetes are administered a combination of long acting and short acting insulin by injection two or more times/day.  Individuals must eat snacks and meals at the same time each day to avoid low blood glucose when long-acting insulin peaks.  Some individuals may require insulin injections at school.

Insulin Pump
More and more individuals with type 1 diabetes are using insulin pumps to regulate their blood sugar.  An insulin pump is a small computer which feeds insulin directly into the body 24 hours a day, via a small tube ending in a needle (called an infusion set) that is inserted just under the skin on the abdomen. The insulin pump provides a pre-programmed amount of insulin set to maintain blood sugar at a desired range when not eating.  The wearer calculates and administers extra insulin (a bolus) to the pump when eating, or to correct high blood sugar. Individuals who use insulin pumps typically do not need to eat at exactly the same time each day, as an insulin bolus can be administered whenever the individual eats.

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