I have always had a special heart for kids with special needs, especially those with Down syndrome. Never in my thirty years working with special needs has there been a Down’s child, teen, or adult who has not woven their way into my heart in a unique way. And it also seems like I am more tolerant of their smiles, hugs, flirting with others, and strong will. But this child was very different. He was morbidly obese, and I even noticed the year before when I observed his class that he was going to be one of those handfuls. For the first time in my special education career, I was going to have a child I would have to daily make the choice to love.
Frank, at the beginning of the year, was fairly compliant. But as the year progressed, he continued to gain weight. He began to have constipation and needed to spend additional time in the bathroom. Frank was also moodier and that really did not make sense to anyone else. He began to go to the bathroom at odd times and needed frequent drinks at the fountain more than any other child in the classroom. Knowing the importance of water, I always let him have a drink. Hard as I tried, I could only entice him with snacks that were less than healthy choices. At the end of lunch, he would literally take his time so he could savor each bite and make the other children late to their next class.
Frank also began to deteriorate in his behavior. He began to get emotionally upset, extra stubborn, and even physical by pushing, hugging, and falling to the floor. We initially thought he was possibly regressing in his academic ability, going through puberty, or just plain spoiled. We worked with his mom and dad, but after a while, they began to be more frustrated with us and told us that our classroom was the only place that this was happening.
When he was asked to participate in an activity such as physical education, it was increasingly becoming more difficult due to his growing weight. And in a class where he was asked to do a nonpreferred activity, he would tantrum, fall to the floor, and crawl like a child. Many times when he was tired and lethargic due to his condition, he would not even move when it was a fun and preferred activity. He hit any adult who would not do what he wanted them to do and even pushed someone so hard that they fell to the floor.
Type 2 diabetes was originally an adult set disorder but has recently shown up in a lot of students and teens. They are typically overweight, have a poor diet, and display the following characteristics of fatigue during any physical exercise: dry skin; blotchy black skin; and unexplained slow healing of viruses, colds, bruising, and cuts. Behavior associated with mental illness also can be a sign of diabetes.
Diabetes 2 is a reversible disorder and complications can be reversed with a bit of change. Yearly doctor visits, comments from teachers and other personnel who work with that particular child, and changes in behavior, weight, or habits should be carefully monitored, along with a visit to the local pediatrician or a blood test given at your local outpatient facility. Catching type 2 diabetes early can mean the difference between life and death, a healthy weight, unhealthy habits for a lifetime, and improvement of a child or teen’s complete well-being. Other than those symptoms, having diabetes can lead to heart disease, gallbladder sickness, stroke, asthma, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, high cholesterol, and cancer. Sad as these statistics can be, I pray that there will be a happy ending to this story. It doesn’t matter who identifies the problem. It is more essential that the problem is fixed.
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