It’s hard to explain to parents outside the Type 1 community what diabetes camp is, but easier to explain what it means to our family. Diabetes camp has helped my child develop strategies for how to care for himself while controlling his Type 1.
For one week a year, I load up clothes, bug spray, and sunscreen and get him ready to go to camp, but I don’t have to get a week’s worth of diabetes supplies ready. Camp has that covered with an on-site pharmacy and a trained staff of doctors, nurses, and counselors with Type 1. For one week a year, I sleep well knowing that someone is qualified to do the 2:00 am blood sugar check and is committed to keeping him safe.
My son has two parents who know his diabetes inside and out, but it’s important for him to be around others who are knowledgeable about Type 1, and who have a different perspective. The camp staff help him gain self-care skills based on what he can handle.
He hikes, he plays games, he swims, he ziplines, and he learns how to manage his diabetes throughout every activity. What is great is he learns from others with diabetes. I don’t have the knowledge to tell him how the heat and ziplining is going to impact his sugars, but he watches the counselors and the other campers with Type 1 as they manage their highs and lows. It’s peer to peer learning, and that’s how we learn best.
Camp provides an environment that builds my son’s confidence and helps him be independent, and those lessons pay off throughout the year. Here’s an example – I usually change his pump site, but his infusion set came off at a birthday party shortly after camp, and he was 30 minutes away. I got the text the set fell off, and then got a text saying he put on a new one. I put down my car keys and stared at the phone in disbelief. This had never happened before. It turns out that at camp they had worked with him to change his own set and he now had the confidence to handle it without me.
Camp is a growth experience for the entire family. It helps me let go as a parent and it helps him take ownership of his Type 1. It may be just one week a year, but It’s been invaluable for him and for us.
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