Making the Grade: Children With Type 1 Diabetes Perform as Well as Those Without Diabetes in School
What to Know
Many parents worry that their children with type 1 diabetes will struggle in school because of the disease. They have concerns about missed school days, diabetes-related learning difficulties, and social and/or mental health issues. Some studies suggest that kids with type 1 diabetes may have mild problems with learning, while other studies have had mixed results. This study examined whether type 1 diabetes impedes school performance and, if so, whether diabetes care and management contribute to those difficulties.
The study authors examined the diabetes-related medical records of 666 Australian children with type 1 diabetes. They also reviewed the results of a national education test that is given to all students in Australia in grades 3, 5, 7, and 9. They compared the test results of the children with diabetes to 3,260 healthy children from the same school and school years. For the children with diabetes, the researchers also looked for links between their diabetes control and management and their school performance.
The children’s test scores showed no important differences in any year. The test scores of children with diabetes did not decline over time and did not worsen after they were diagnosed with diabetes. Children with diabetes, on average, attended 3 percent fewer school days than those without diabetes. Having poor blood glucose control was linked to slightly lower test scores and poorer school attendance. However, test scores were not lower for children who had a history of severe hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and diabetic ketoacidosis (a build-up of toxic acids in the blood caused by a lack of insulin).
This study should ease some of the worries regarding the school performance of children with type 1 diabetes. Such children appear to perform as well as other children. But since children with poor glucose control did slightly worse on tests and attendance, parents should be vigilant about controlling their child’s diabetes as well as possible. This study only looked at test scores. It did not evaluate specific mental and thinking abilities. Also, other school records were not evaluated. Finally, some children with diabetes may have missed one or more of the tests, which could have skewed the results.
School performance in children with type 1 diabetes: a contemporary population-based study, by Cooper and colleagues. Pediatric Diabetes 2016;17:101-111 https://doi.org/10.1111/pedi.12243