Managing Middle School with Diabetes: Taking Exams

Posted by summer on Wed, 04/16/2014 - 12:02 in
Summer-Asman-Diabetes-at-Middle-SchoolSummer finds success from having a positive attitude towards type 1 diabetes.

In most parts of the country, when kids graduate from middle school they all head over to the local high school in the Fall. Easy. In New York City, it doesn’t work like that. I live in Manhattan, where there is no “zoned” high school to go to. So, all eighth graders have to apply to high school. It sounds crazy – and it is. There are certain high schools that are very competitive and require a special exam, called the SHSAT, for admissions. About 29,000 NYC kids take the exam and about 6,000 kids get in. I began a “cram” course in September, stressed A LOT, and was ready to sit for the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) in November.

Although everyone gets nervous, I was probably more stressed out than any other kid in New York City for the SHSATs. Because of my type 1 diabetes, I was not just worried about the test – which is scary on its own – but I also was anxious about going low or high and messing up because of that.

When I was diagnosed, my parents worked with my school to get me a 504 Plan, which gives me extra time on tests. I was kind of embarrassed about the 504, but I hoped nobody noticed.

However, I was floored when I found out I could not take the SHSAT with everybody else. It is given on the weekend at various schools in the city. I had to take it a week later with all other kids with special needs. While all my friends were taking the test and then celebrating that they were done, I was sitting home with the test looming. I didn’t want to be different than all of my other friends!  It caused me so much stress worrying about this. I don’t tell many people that I have diabetes, so I was nervous about what they would think about me taking the test on a different day with extended time.

My 504 Plan and Diabetes Management at School

Despite my fear of people viewing me differently, my 504 Plan ended up helping me because I got extra time on my test. I was able to check over my answers and take my time. I didn’t feel pressured like other standardized tests when you are racing the clock. I had enough time to stop, test my blood glucose and eat a snack. It was easy for me, because my mom packed a good snack (a peanut butter sandwich!) and I wear the Omnipod insulin pump. I could just test and bolus on the Personal Diabetes Manager (PDM), which made it quicker and less noticeable than when I was on injections.

Not Letting Diabetes Impact My Exam

Then I continued the test able to focus on the work ahead of me because my blood glucose was in a safe zone and I was full from my snack. I took the test not worrying about diabetes, which can be a big distraction. At the end of the test, I came out with a big, relieved smile on my face. I had been in the testing room for over three hours, so of course I tested right away before celebrating that I was finally done with the SHSAT. I did it!!!!!

I realized that most of my friends did not even notice I did not take the test on the same day as them. They were so focused on the test and their own worries and issues that they didn’t have time to look around to see what other people were doing. Even though I was embarrassed when my parents got a 504 Plan for me, I am so glad they did. I never would have been able to snack, test my blood glucose and finish the test on time – and while in a good blood glucose zone. Maybe extended time on huge exams is a silver lining for diabetes? I don’t know, but I am sooo glad the test is done. Stay tuned for my exam results…