By: Art Sesnovich
As soon as a child is diagnosed with diabetes,there are an almost overwhelming number ofthings that must be done:
- Set up a medical treatment program
- Modify the child’s diet
- Ensure that a good support system is in place
- Seek the advice of others who have the disease
What to Do First?
Which of the above items should be done first whena child is diagnosed? Very soon, the answer to thatquestion may be: none of the above. That’s becauseThe Barton Center for Diabetes Education in NorthOxford, Massachusetts—the largest independentcamping and educational program in the country—has created a comprehensive program to help newlydiagnosed children with diabetes and their familiesmanage the relentless demands of the disease.
“Learn, Laugh, Live” is a multidisciplinary programthat offers medical, nutritional, physiological andemotional instruction and support to families witha child recently diagnosed with diabetes.
The staff has two core teams: a program team and amedical team.
The program team consists of Barton staffwith degrees and extensive experience innutrition, social work, drama, camp and youthdevelopment. They will lead the children’sprograms; most of them also have diabetesthemselves.
The medical team includes pediatricendocrinologists, registered nurses, certifieddiabetes educators and registered dietitians.
In addition to the core staff, experts fromother areas, such as exercise physiologistsand researchers, will be added as needed. Theprograms will bring together children fromacross the country, introducing themto peers struggling with the samechallenges and to role models who havesuccessfully overcome the difficulties ofthe disease.
A Complete WeekendDiabetes Curriculum
The residential program, whichwill be offered several times a yearover extended weekends, is the firstprogram to provide a completeweekend curriculum on diabetes ina comfortable retreat setting, withcontinued support through interactiveonline tools for one year after theprogram.
While parents learn through acombination of informal lectures andinteractive exercises, children engage infun and games designed to complementthe parents’ curriculum throughexperiential learning.
While the program is intended to serve primarily children andteenagers with type 1 diabetes and their families, there is no age limitfor attendees. Anyone who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes iswelcome. People who have had diabetes for a longer period of time willfind the program helpful as a refresher.
“This is a truly innovative program,” says JohnMaconga, president of The Barton Center. “When achild is diagnosed with diabetes, he or she is typicallyintroduced to the ‘ins and outs’ of the disease by theprimary physician or nurse in a sterile clinical setting,which can be very intimidating. Even with severalvisits to a clinic’s staff, the setting is not conduciveto the sharing of personal experiences and focusedlearning.”
A ‘Soup to Nuts’ Program
“Learn, Laugh, Live” takes a different approach. It is a“soup to nuts” program that incorporates every aspectof the disease and teaches how people with diabetescan better manage their lives.
The program is set in a friendly, family atmospherewhere children and parents alike can find supportfrom and make friends with others in the samesituation. And thanks to the support of a lead funderfor the program, financial assistance is available forfamilies who would otherwise not be able to attend.
The Barton “Learn, Laugh, Live” program is farfrom the only step that a person just diagnosed withdiabetes can take. But it’s a big step that will giveparticipants a significant head start in what will be alifelong journey.
The first program is scheduled for April 8-10, 2005,and will be repeated in the fall of 2005.
The cost of the program is $100 per person with a$450 maximum per family. Financial aid is availablefor families with who need it.
A full range of services will be offered duringthe weekends at Barton’s 200-acre retreat andconference center in North Oxford, including:
- Full diabetes curriculum for parents to learn the ABCs of diabetes
- Baseline measurements of critical health factors
- Fun and creative programming for children that reinforces the curriculum being taught to parents
- Individual family consultations with medical and wellness experts
- Participation in online discussion boards for post-program networking and support