In the US, the type 1 diabetes charity Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) runs multiple peer-to-peer initiatives which have been specifically developed to help children make friends with other people their age who are in the same position. Equivalent programmes are also run by JDRF in the UK.
Speaking to the North Jersey newspaper, Denise Ballou, who has an eight-year-old son with type 1 diabetes said: “There’s so much misunderstanding with this disease. You can’t understand it unless you’re living it.”
She took Russell along to a local meeting dubbed the Blue Crew for children aged between 5 and 10. It was there that he met several like-minded children who have now become firm friends.
Denise thinks attending the meetings was a turning point for her child. She said: “You get these kids together and its amazing to see how they click and get that level of acceptance.”
Emily Miller is a development director of peer-to-peer events at a JDRF programme in New Jersey.
She said: “Some kids will talk about their diabetes, and some dont. If someones blood sugar is low, others get it that you have to stop and adjust. They know what its like to test your blood sugar in front of every other kid in school.”
The JDRF team has also discovered how younger children look up to teenagers and this is a good opportunity for them to learn from their older peers.
Russell joined JDRF’s youth ambassador program, which encourages children under 18 to share their diabetes experiences and speak at public events. Through this, Russell made even more friends.
Jake Walsh, is a youth ambassador who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was eight. Now aged 16, he regularly speaks at JDRF’s annual conferences and to employees of companies that support staff with diabetes.
Through his JDRF connection, he met his girlfriend Alex Mollica, who also has type 1 diabetes.
Alex said: “I dont have lot of friends who have T1D, so going to these events allows me to be surrounded by other diabetics. People come up to me and ask, ‘What’s it like living with diabetes?’ and I say that it’s never stopped me from playing in sports, being in clubs and doing community service. I’ve learned to manage it over the years.”
Community support can be important in managing diabetes. There are more than 250,000 people on our Diabetes Forum. Here, people living with type 1 diabetes, or indeed other types of diabetes, can get support from others in a similar situation, or perhaps find a support group near to them.
JDRF also run discovery days for children with type 1 diabetes in the UK, giving them an opportunity to meet and make friends with others with the condition.