Success Stories

You're not alone. Others have faced - and defeated - discrimination because of diabetes. Here are some recent examples.

Kiara's Story

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Kiara Paglia – Safer on Her School Bus

Kerry Harrison of Bellingham, Washington can rest a little easier now when her daughter rides the school bus. Kiara, who is an 11-years-old and has type 1 diabetes, recently faced an episode of low blood glucose while riding the bus. Although she keeps glucose tabs in her backpack, on that particular day, Kiara didn't have enough available. The bus driver pulled over and a fellow student gave Kiara a juice box to help. Kerry took this as a warning sign. It might happen again and she needed a plan to help her daughter in case it did.

In January 2016 Kerry contacted the American Diabetes Association for guidance.

She wanted to ask the school district to keep a supply of glucose tabs or other fast-acting sugar source on its buses for similar situations. One of the Association's legal advocates explained that students with diabetes must be allowed to carry and access their own supplies while on school buses. But, she said that the law does not specifically require a school bus to carry its own supply of glucose tabs. So, if Kerry decided to make that request, she would be asking the school district to go above and beyond what the law requires.

Kerry decided to push for more than the law required.

She was looking out for the best interests of her daughter, as well as other children who have diabetes. So, after she received information and guidance from the legal advocate, Kerry contacted the school district and made the request for the district's buses to carry those supplies.

After considering her request, an assistant superintendent contacted Kerry with the answer that she wanted to hear.

  • At the beginning of the school year, the school district would stock the first aid kit of each school bus with a supply of individual snacked-size skittles (candy). The candy would be supplied by parents. /li>
  • When a student needed them for medical reasons, the student's own supplies would be the first source. But, if required, the skittles in the first aid kit would be available as an alternative.
  • During medical situations, the bus drivers would follow appropriate procedures to ensure the safety of all students on the bus.


Kerry sent a note to the legal advocate. "Good news. We won. Thank you for your help. If anyone else has the same issue, I am happy to share and help with the process." Through her advocacy Kerry proved that, with help from legal advocacy, you can win in real life, without having to win in court. Kerry also signed up as a Diabetes Advocate for the American Diabetes Association. As an advocate, she will take action and voice support for diabetes-related legislation, programs and funding.

Ashlynn's Story

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Education about diabetes and its care can make a difference.

The CREST program, run by the city of Santa Monica, California, adds learning adventures to the lives of children who attend. This city-funded program provides enrichment classes, including music, art, theater and sports, to children in grades K-5. Nine-year-old Ashlynn had been participating in the program since she was five, including volleyball and track and field.

But in April 2015, Ashlynn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and her access to CREST activities became more limited.

Ashlynn's mother, Audrey, learned that the program would not train its staff to administer glucagon, which is sometimes necessary to treat episodes of extremely low blood glucose. Without trained staff, Ashlynn would not be fully protected unless her mother could be there to administer glucagon, if needed. Audrey was told that the City of Santa Monica feared a lawsuit if its staff did not administer glucagon correctly, and that was the reason for the policy.

Ashlynn loved being part of the program.

Audrey, a single mother who could not always be there the entire time, worried that if the CREST staff was not able to provide glucagon when it was needed, Ashlynn could not attend. This was not acceptable. So Audrey contacted the program directors and tried to educate them about diabetes care. She also stressed that it would not endanger Ashlynn's life if someone gave her glucagon, even if she didn't need it. But the program's policy still did not change. Ashlynn was only able to attend CREST when Audrey could also be there. That meant that Ashlynn had to miss out on many activities she loved.

Audrey contacted the American Diabetes Association for help.

She confirmed that Ashlynn had the legal right to fully participate in the program. A legal advocate at the Association gave Audrey some information and guidance. Audrey then wrote a letter to the program that outlined Ashlynn's rights and addressed the program's concerns about its legal responsibility.

Things turned around.

The directors of CREST program changed the policy and agreed to train their staff about type 1 diabetes, diabetes care (including glucagon administration) and the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia. Ashlynn would be able to fully attend the program once again. Audrey's experience working on this issue was a positive one. She says that the program's directors were nothing but gracious through the whole process. And the result was what she wanted for Ashlynn.

Audrey's advice.

The Association is here to help. You can fight discrimination when you understand the laws that protect people with diabetes and can educate others about diabetes care. Sometimes information and negotiation goes a long way. "Thank you to the American Diabetes Association's legal advocate for her time, effort and expertise," says Audrey. "When you see your child triumph through the daily struggles of managing type 1 diabetes, you will go to great lengths to ensure his or her well-being. For every parent out there who feels defeated by the weight of advocating for your child, remind yourself that there are people out there who will help. When you feel like you are going through a rough journey all by yourself, stay true to yourself and your cause. The city of Santa Monica, the American Diabetes Association and I worked positively together to achieve the best outcome for my daughter, Ashlynn. For this I am grateful."

Kevin's Story

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Feb2216

Coffee, Snacks and Some Help from Legal Advocacy

Sandy of Encinitas, California, needed some help on behalf of her son Kevin, a seventh grader. Kevin, who has type 1 diabetes, had a 504 Plan in elementary school, but it didn't carry over to his new school. He needed a new 504 Plan to ensure that he would be treated fairly, stay medically safe and have the same access to education as his peers in middle school. In October 2015, Sandy met with the counselor and a few of Kevin's teachers at the school. They denied Kevin a 504 Plan because his grades were "too good" and said that a 504 Plan was only needed for students with learning problems. Instead, they set up an individualized health plan (IHP) for Kevin. But Sandy knew that an IHP would not fully protect him.

Why did it matter which plan was set up for Kevin?

An IHP is an agreement that outlines medical care for students with special health care needs.But a 504 Plan includes extra protections for people with disabilities. Diabetes is considered a disability under federal law. 504 Plans also ensure that students with disabilities receive the accommodations that they need at school, as well as equal access to school-related activities like field trips and extracurriculars.

Sandy contacted the American Diabetes Association for help.

One of the Association's Legal Advocates confirmed that Kevin was protected under federal law. He gave Sandy resources to help, including a sample letter that outlined the rights of students with diabetes. Sandy felt that the school's administrators did not fully understand laws that protect students with diabetes. She used the sample letter, added information about Kevin and sent it to the school principal. If the letter didn't work, Sandy was prepared to file a complaint with the school district's superintendent. But the school agreed to meet with her again.

Sandy took some helpful suggestions from the Association's legal advocate in preparing for this meeting.

Kevin would be attending this school for two years and then move on to high school within the same district, so she wanted to establish a good relationship with the administrators. To encourage friendly and constructive conversation, Sandy brought coffee and snacks. To help her feel confident, she also took along another parent who had more experience with the issue and understood the laws about school and diabetes.

The result?

A 504 Plan was set up for Kevin that will cover him through high school. Sandy is glad that she fought for Kevin&'s rights and knows that her efforts will also help other students with diabetes down the road.

"A lot of people were helped. Thanks to the American Diabetes Association, the resources they provided and the other parents who encouraged me. The help from the Association's legal advocacy program was vital, and having that help at no charge was amazing. As a side note, we just sent a small donation to the Association as a thank you."

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Read What Others Are Saying About the Legal Advocacy Program

"Without the legal guidance offered by the American Diabetes Association, this matter could have been ignored. But it wasn't ignored. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this program truly safe for every child who has diabetes." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I found you when I was at my worst and, if not for your help, I would have been lost." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Just wanted to tell you thank you for speaking with me last week regarding my patients and the suggestions you provided. I received the packet of information you sent me and will make it available to our patients." — Health care provider

"The Association is remarkable for standing up for the rights of people like me who have 'invisible' disabilities that people so often overlook. Thank you, American Diabetes Association, and your amazing Legal Advocates." — Employee with diabetes

"I am very thankful for the American Diabetes Association services to help families make sure their children are safe and treated fairly. I wish all parents caring for children with diabetes were aware of their rights." — Parent of child with diabetes

"I cannot thank you enough for your assistance through this ordeal. I likely would not be employed right now without it. I will use my first check to become an Association member and support your organization." — Employee with diabetes

"I should have called sooner…I think I was being a little too patient. I am very grateful for your support and expertise in this area. I cannot thank you enough!" — Parent of child with diabetes

"Thanks so much for all of your assistance. I can't tell you how much it meant." — Employee with diabetes

"I want to thank you for the time you spent visiting with me on the phone recently. It is extremely encouraging to visit with someone that understands diabetes and is willing to provide information regarding this disease… All of us involved appreciate your willingness to keep an open file. This is the first time the family has experienced a friendly relationship, and we sincerely appreciate your helpful attitude." — Advocate for inmate with diabetes

  • Last Reviewed: October 1, 2013
  • Last Edited: January 29, 2015

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast