Impact of Virtual Schooling on Children with Type 1 Diabetes

April 11, 2022

Christine A. March, MD, MS, instructor in the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh published findings from a new study investigating the adverse effects of quarantine and virtual schooling on children with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

The study was published in the journal The Science of Diabetes Self-Management and Care, and it was featured in the publication Endocrine Today on February 14.

Dr. March and colleagues’ study surveyed parents of children with type 1 diabetes (<19 years of age) to gauge their perceptions of changes in their child’s diabetes management.

Survey respondents reported multiple stressors and impacts due the transition to remote or virtual learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents reported difficulties balancing their child's diabetes management with their own employment, helping with school assignments, and having multiple children enrolled in virtual learning simultaneously. 

Seventy-two percent of surveyed parents reported managing their child's diabetes at home, with most survey participants doing so at the same time they were working from home. This is in contrast to pre-pandemic routines, which relied more on school staff support if their children were not already managing their care independently.

Additionally, the research found parents of adolescents aged 12 years and older felt their teens were more likely to experience a decline in their diet, sleep habits, and glycemic control when in virtual learning.  Increased snacking was a key negative outcome that surfaced in the parent surveys.

“Community resources, and schools in particular, play a crucial role in helping children and adolescents with T1D – and their family members – more effectively manage their diabetes. Ongoing disruptions to daily routines and social interactions, such as what we have experienced with COVID-19, are clearly detrimental, depriving children and families of the support they need to navigate the complexities and challenges of this chronic disease,” says Dr. March.

Learn more about Dr. March and the diabetes programs and research at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Reference

March CA, Siminerio LM, Muzumdar RH, Libman IM. Implications of the School Day on Health Behaviors for Children With Type 1 Diabetes: A Survey of Parent Perspectives During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Sci Diabetes Self Manag Care. 2021 Dec; 47(6): 447-456.