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Understanding and enhancing the school experiences of children and adolescents living with type 1 diabetes

Besides the challenges associated with their teenage years, adolescents with type 1 diabetes (T1D) encounter additional challenges of having a chronic condition.

Research shows that young people with T1D are at higher risk for mental health problems than their healthy peers. Positive school experiences that promote psychosocial wellbeing are therefore vital for children and adolescents with T1D. This project brings together the expertise of researchers, stakeholders and policy makers to ensure the research is relevant, thorough and translatable. The purpose of this project is to provide an in-depth understanding of the experience of children and adolescents with T1D at school and to outline ways that school communities can contribute to the psychosocial wellbeing of these students.

Project phases

Phase 1: Reference group

The reference group will enhance engagement of, and recruitment from the T1D community, review the progress of the research, be involved in dissemination of findings and development of the guidelines, and assist in planning a future intervention. Engagement of such a group is critical to ensure the project research outcomes are ‘owned’, relevant, sustainable and can be translated into policy and practice for schools, families, institutions and community groups connected to the school community. If parents are interested in being part of the reference group, please contact Leanne Fried (details below).

Phase 2: Case studies of school communities

Three school communities (one from each education sector) recognised by our partners, School of Special Education Needs: Medical and Mental Health (SSEN:MMH) as providing a positive experience for students with T1D, will be chosen for the case studies. Data will be collected from parents, peers, teachers, student services personnel and personnel from community groups involved with the schools. From this data collection, a model will be developed to show what good support in a school for children and adolescents with T1D can look like.

Phase 3: Students with T1D as co-researchers

In this phase, a summit will be organised. Adolescent students with T1D will be invited to act as T1D ambassadors and together with parents, will become co-researchers in this project. The summit will help us to further understand the school experiences of adolescent students and to develop a set of guidelines to enable the positive psychosocial development of students with T1D. If adolescents would like to be part of the summit, contact Leanne Fried (details below).

Project participants

The focus of this project is students aged 10-18 years of age with a diagnosis of T1D in mainstream Western Australian schools. Other participants will be parents, school staff and peers.

Expected outcomes

From this research we will develop a model to illustrate support in schools for students with T1D. We will also produce a set of guidelines for schools aimed at developing the psychosocial wellbeing of students with T1D. Further funding will be sought to trial the guidelines in schools.

For more information, contact Leanne Fried at


Psychosocial support for children and adolescents with type 1 diabetes at school

Research indicates that children and adolescents with T1D need support at school not only to carry out their management tasks but they can also need psychosocial support. We recently completed a research project that investigated the many ways that schools, identified as offering good support for children and adolescents with T1D, provide these students with management and psychosocial support. An outcome of this project was a web-based model that is designed to improve the psychosocial support received by children and adolescents with T1D at school. The model complements the work conducted by Diabetes Australia through the Diabetes in Schools program and is currently being reviewed by teachers, parents and students. Once this process is completed we will trial the use of the model in schools.

Type 1 diabetes mentor project

Research has found that young adult and parent peer mentors can be role models who not only normalise the adolescent's or parent’s experiences of living with a chronic disease but can also act as symbols of hope for them. In a recent project, 10 parents of adolescents with T1D undertook training to be mentors at the Type 1 Diabetes Family Centre. The parent mentors were then paired with parents of newly diagnosed adolescents based on where they lived, age and gender of their children. Ten young adults with T1D were also trained to be mentors and they were paired with adolescents with T1D based on their gender and interests. Mentees were mentored for an eight-week period. Encouraging results were obtained from the pilot. We are now applying for funding to conduct a bigger trial for parents of newly diagnosed children and adolescents with T1D, and adolescents who feel they would like extra support with the view in the future of formalising mentoring support for the T1D community.