Residential Program Gets Newly Diagnosed Kids Off To A Good Start
As soon as a child is diagnosed with diabetes, there are an almost overwhelming number of things 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 when a child is diagnosed? Very soon, the answer to that question may be: none of the above. That’s because The Barton Center for Diabetes Education in North Oxford, Massachusetts—the largest independent camping and educational program in the country—has created a comprehensive program to help newly diagnosed children with diabetes and their families manage the relentless demands of the disease.
“Learn, Laugh, Live” is a multidisciplinary program that offers medical, nutritional, physiological and emotional instruction and support to families with a child recently diagnosed with diabetes.
The staff has two core teams: a program team and a medical team.
The program team consists of Barton staff with degrees and extensive experience in nutrition, social work, drama, camp and youth development. They will lead the children’s programs; most of them also have diabetes themselves.
The medical team includes pediatric endocrinologists, registered nurses, certified diabetes educators and registered dietitians.
In addition to the core staff, experts from other areas, such as exercise physiologists and researchers, will be added as needed. The programs will bring together children from across the country, introducing them to peers struggling with the same challenges and to role models who have successfully overcome the difficulties of the disease.
A Complete Weekend Diabetes Curriculum
The residential program, which will be offered several times a year over extended weekends, is the first program to provide a complete weekend curriculum on diabetes in a comfortable retreat setting, with continued support through interactive online tools for one year after the program.
While parents learn through a combination of informal lectures and interactive exercises, children engage in fun and games designed to complement the parents’ curriculum through experiential learning.
While the program is intended to serve primarily children and teenagers with type 1 diabetes and their families, there is no age limit for attendees. Anyone who has recently been diagnosed with diabetes is welcome. People who have had diabetes for a longer period of time will find the program helpful as a refresher.
“This is a truly innovative program,” says John Maconga, president of The Barton Center. “When a child is diagnosed with diabetes, he or she is typically introduced to the ‘ins and outs’ of the disease by the primary physician or nurse in a sterile clinical setting, which can be very intimidating. Even with several visits to a clinic’s staff, the setting is not conducive to the sharing of personal experiences and focused learning.”
A ‘Soup to Nuts’ Program
“Learn, Laugh, Live” takes a different approach. It is a “soup to nuts” program that incorporates every aspect of the disease and teaches how people with diabetes can better manage their lives.
The program is set in a friendly, family atmosphere where children and parents alike can find support from and make friends with others in the same situation. And thanks to the support of a lead funder for the program, financial assistance is available for families who would otherwise not be able to attend.
The Barton “Learn, Laugh, Live” program is far from the only step that a person just diagnosed with diabetes can take. But it’s a big step that will give participants a significant head start in what will be a lifelong 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 available for families with who need it.
A full range of services will be offered during the weekends at Barton’s 200-acre retreat and conference 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