Finding a T1D Community in Perth

2/25/16
WRITTEN BY: Emily Dowling
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Having a child with diabetes can be isolating. I remember feeling so alone, exhausted and run down — yet I didn’t want any support, even from someone who knew what I was going through, because if I accepted the support I’d be forced to believe that I wasn’t going to wake up from the nightmare.

A year or so into diagnosis, our child was due to start full-time school, which meant our very new “normal” was about to be shaken up all over again. Anxiety was starting to take over the majority of my day; I wondered how on earth I was going to relinquish control of diabetes to his new school. Finn would be their first child with diabetes and ultimately pave the way in their procedures for future diabetic children that attended the school. This is where we were introduced to the Telethon Type 1 Family Centre by Finn’s endocrinology team.

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The Telethon Type 1 Family Centre is an organisation specifically built to support the children and families with diabetes, offering counseling to newly diagnosed families and others who are struggling with the emotional and physical drain diabetes has in day-to-day life. The Family Centre is a building that when you walk inside feels more like you have just walked into your own home rather then a place of work. To the right there are bar stools crowded around a kitchen island bench for parents to chat over coffee while the kids play. Walking further in there is a play area and dress up corner for the kids to play and imagine, to the left a games room with fluffy beanbags, a TV and game console for the older kids.

It’s also a safe place for teens to hang out with others who are walking their journey. This is the first of its kind in Australia and Finn and our family have been lucky enough to be able to utilise the facility and all it has to offer.

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The Family Centre have not only offered advocacy between Finn’s school and ourselves to ensure the school staff are trained in all things Type 1, they are passionate about educating the outside community about the struggles of a family touched with Type 1. There’s a Facebook parent page, where there is always a fellow D mum or dad up at 3 a.m. to chat with. Where we swap recipes, celebrate lowered A1C levels and commiserate when blood sugar just isn’t cooperating. Diabetes is a tough gig and the Type 1 Family Centre bring a community together to support each other.

We thank our lucky stars everyday that Finn has remained so happy-go-lucky through all his experiences. Although slow to warm up to people especially while having some glucose issues, once he’s out of his shell, you don’t see him without a smile or a giggle. He’ll regale anyone who listens with his latest story.

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The Family Centre has encouraged him to remain the well-adjusted little human you see. There’s that saying that it takes a village to raise a child and I truly believe this. Bec, Crystal and the team are always there championing Finn, his friends and their efforts. An integral part of Finn’s growth is being able to see others his age have their fingers pricked and he has bonded over the same colour insulin pump. We even notice support for our eldest son Liam who is able to chat with other siblings about his experience. Not to mention some of the strongest, bravest mums and dads I’ve ever had the privilege to now call my friends.

Crystal works tirelessly to give the families fun activities including school holiday outings to ice skating or science museums, Christmas parties, Halloween parties, family camps and teen camps. You will often see her in the fairy wings, much to the kids’ joy. An initiative that has really been successful are the teen cooking classes with the resident dietitian and educator Amy, where teens learn to lead healthy lifestyles while providing an easier avenue for them to transition into adulthood. The Centre’s programs will encourage Finn’s growth throughout each stage of his life whilst also supporting our walk with Finn. They offer parents Solution Forums to discuss carb counting, exam stress, and transitioning into high school. They even offer grandparents and neighbours a babysitting course so parents can have a worry-free evening away.

Finn’s life, and ours, will be forever enriched and supported because someone who cared enough about kids with Type 1 had the vision and perseverance to create the Family Centre and see it through.



Emily Dowling

Emily lives in Perth, Western Australia with her husband Sean and her two boys Liam and Finn. Finn was just 3 when he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and since both Emily and Sean have worked tirelessly at raising awareness within Finn's school and his community.