CDN Student Advice: Advice for a Parent With a T1D Child Heading to College

Zach Hall, Albion College '18 and Casey Terrell, University of Wyoming College of Law '18

Question:

My son is going away to college this week. His A1C has been 12 for the past year. He has had Type 1 for 9 years. He has gone to classes for carb counting, getting ready for college and been to diabetes camp for many years. He wears a pump but does not want to wear a glucose monitor. He often does not bolus when he eats even though he knows he is supposed to. He understands the complications that can occur with his high A1C.  He has had counseling for his high A1C. His college is in a rural area and does not have a CDN Chapter or much health services.  Do you have any suggestions for him?  

Answers:

Casey:

Howdy! First off, I want to say thank you for all you do as a T1D parent. It is a tough job to say the least, and you deserve recognition for how difficult this experience is for you as well.

Regarding your question, I have had a similar experience. I attend school at the University of Wyoming, which much like the school where your son is going, is extremely rural. Based on my experiences I have three pieces of wisdom to pass on.

First, when your son gets to school I would encourage him to seek out Disability Support Services at his University. Although I don’t personally view my diabetes as a disability per se, Disability Support Services can help direct him to community resources to assist him in treatment and also create a plan to help him in academic aspects as well. For me, this looked like notifying my professors of my condition so that I could have additional time on exams or assignments if my performance was affected by my diabetes. Since there are few doctors offices/endocrinologists near your son’s university, Disability Support Services could also likely help him to receive excused absences to travel for his appointments as needed.

Second, if there is not a CDN Chapter at his university, suggest that he start a one! There are so many great organizations out there for people with type one diabetes, CDN chapters among them, and they were all started by someone in a position just like your son. Additionally, having him take an active role in a campus organization might also help him find other students with T1D, and help him to create a support system. This could benefit him not only socially, but in his treatment as well.

Finally, I would encourage you both to see the benefits of a rural campus. Often times rural campuses provide opportunities for recreation, for example, that might not be available in more urban environments. Encouraging him to find a new recreational activity will ensure he either maintains and/or begins an active lifestyle, which is likely to help lower his A1C somewhat. In my experience, another benefit of rural campuses is the community feel that they often foster. He could definitely use this to his advantage to meet friends who could help encourage him in his treatment. I know it was always helpful to have one of my friends remind me to bolus after eating in the cafeteria together.

I hope this was helpful, and I wish both of you luck as you begin this new adventure. Be sure to write back to us any time with questions as he settles in this year.

Zach:

Thank you so much for your question and all the work that you do as a parent of a T1D. While my personal diabetes story is a little different than your son’s, I know how challenging it can be to manage T1D at college.

First off, I would suggest that you work together with your son to register with his school’s Disability Support Services. They will be able to connect him with resources on campus that can support him, and he can register for accommodations at the same time!. For more information related to registering for accommodations, check out the resources on our website and our videos on registering for accommodations..

Secondly, I would suggest that he connects with counseling services at his college. While he may not be able to meet with someone who understands the ins and outs of diabetes, this will be a place where he can learn and grow independently.

Third, I suggest that you allow him as much freedom at college as possible. While this will be hard to do at first, giving him the freedom to manage his disease may lead him to seeing the issues in his care, and his care could improve. It’s important to still stay in contact with him about his diabetes, but allow him to make decisions on his own. Many issues that your son will face in terms of his diabetes cannot be solved overnight, and with that, it’s important to know that his A1C now does not determine his future.In my opinion, it is a learning process that he will go through on his own.

Speaking from personal experience, I went through three years of college without a CGM, and I have not had an emergency situation that I could not handle on my own. While the decision to get a CGM is different for everyone, know that he can survive without it I was diagnosed for almost 8 years before I got my CGM, and this tool will be able to help him when he is ready for it.

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