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December 6, 2000

Behavior

Question from Sacramento, California, USA:

How does type 1 diabetes affect a child's ability to learn and schoolwork? I'm interested about the high blood sugars especially, as well as the lows. I really haven't seen much in print about this, but anyone who has a child with diabetes knows this. I need to address this issue with my daughter's teachers.

Answer:

There have been quite a number of research articles on the relationship between diabetes and learning difficulties. The research does show that children with diabetes have an increased risk of a learning disability, especially if they were diagnosed before the age of five. The more recent studies point primarily to the effect of low blood sugars — both multiple severe lows where the child needs someone else to bring their blood sugars up (e.g., needs glucagon) and/or has seizures from lows. You may wish to review the research in this area by going to your local library and asking the librarian to help you do a search in this area. Clarissa Holmes, Joanne Rovet, and Christopher Ryan are the three most prolific researchers in this area.

JWB