How old is old enough to take care of your own diabetes?

I was in a couple of different forums today and I'm noticing that there is a common disagreement with people about the appropriate age for a child/person to be able to take care of there diabetes, such as testing, injecting, changing their insulin pump, etc.

I was told by my parents I had one month for them to help me, after that one month I was expected to do it all myself.  I was 9 when I was diagnosed.

I know I was on the older side of most elementary schools, but in my opinion, the earlier they can start taking care of themselves the better.

What do you think?

How old is old enough, and why?

It depends on a lot I suppose. In my case, I was diagnosed in May of 1998 and by August of 1998, I was injecting myself, checking my own BG, weighing my own snacks, logging my own BG, counting my own carbs, etc. I was 12 years old and I definitely did want my parents babying me. I made the choice to mature sooner than my friends so that my diabetes would never limit what I was capable of doing. I feel you are old enough when you are willing to sacrifice the time, energy, and in some cases, money, to take the best possible care of yourself.

My son was 13 when diagnosed - and took pretty much one day to decide he could do it all himself.  We of course are back up when needed but really not more than a reminder for him on occasion.  Sometimes I feel he puts a lot on himself to be so responsible -- but I am very proud of him and know that he needs his independence.  

One thing I do know is that age and maturity are very individualized -- and that so is the demands of this disease. SO guess it is a case be case thing as to when people can and should handle it.   

I think every kid is different. My T1 daughter was checking her own bs, doing her own injections and using our scale to weigh out foods within a week of her diagnosis at age 7. It really shocked me that she could do it at such a young age, of course we always double checked everything. Now at age 8 she is putting her own pump sites in and can draw up insulin into her cartridge, prime the tubing, etc on her own. I always am right there with her when she does this all but, honestly, she does very well.  She had even taught a sub school nurse how to change her pump site one day when hers got pulled out at school and I was 2 hours away.

There are other kids I know, who at age 10 can barely check their bs on their own. They are good, responsible kids but, they just can't seem to handle anymore. I'm not sure what makes some kids ready earlier than others.

I would have to agree with Lindsay, it depends on lot of this. I was de'xd when I was 3 1/2. So my mom and dad did most of checking and shots and stuff. I think I started doing all those things when I was about 12 or 13. My mom still reminds me to check or to promgram my pump when I eat. I am 15 and I still have my mom or dad or brothers do my pump cause I am afriad of the nedle that go into me. But I do my loging my bg's and stuff. So I think it all dpends on the age that your are de'xd with Diabetes.

I think rather than asking "How old is a child when s/he can care for his/her D?", it would be better to think of it as a continuum towards independence, with each child moving along at a different rate depending on maturity, family dynamics, time since diagnosis, etc, etc. As a non-D child, don't you slowly gain more and more independence over the years? It's similar timing to your peers, but not exactly at the same times. Why should us T1's be any different than other kids in our development!??

I think any parent's goal is sending an independent and healthy child off to college or work. But, as we all know, many of us who could "test their BG" still required emotional and financial support well through the college years from our parents.

Honestly, if a parent is asking "When can Johnny do this himself?" of an elementary school child, the parent doesn't understand child development or the realities of living with a chronic illness. IMO...

I think it differs from person to person. I am 13 and picked up on it from the start, my own shots bs everything. I hear of 6 year olds who do it all under close supervision. Its definitely dependent on the maturity level of the person with Diabetes. 

I'm loving these responses, it's great that everyone has their own opinions about it.

I'm still looking for that magic number. We definitely want to move into more independence, but with a 7yr old who has hypoglycemia unawareness, we are definitely not there.  It really is an adult noticing the tiniest change as in more pale than the normal white, type of signs in lows. I'm not saying there isn't some times when she can test her own blood, but obviously not all the time due to bg's. The parent that has a T1 who can do site changes, wow! We aren't even close.  Definitely goes to show how different each child can be not only developmentally in regards to caring for their diabetes, but I'm sure in their bg's themselves, each child is unique.

I was diagnosed when I was 6, and started giving myself my shots when I was 10. There was no blood testing in the 1940s. The syringe was made of glass, and the thick needle was about three quarters of an inch in length. My legs were skinny and the doctor wanted me to inject into the muscle on top of my leg. With the much easier equipment available now, I would probably have started my injections at an earlier age. I also had to use a wire to unclog my needles, and boil the needles after using them so they would be sterilized for the next morning. One shot per day with piggy insulin. Lol!

Hey, I survived, and here I am 65 years after diagnosis.

Richard, wow, it's always inspiring to see someone who has lived with the disease for several years, I'm always so thankful for how far the medical technology has come over the years, props to you for being through the difficult times before the disposable and significantly smaller needles.  I'm always amazed to hear perseverance stories like yours!

I was diagnosed when I was 5. My parents did the shots and most of the bgs until I was about 10 and then I started to take over more responsibility. My mom always did the logging until I was probably 16.  I got my pump when I was 15 and my mom always was there to make sure everything went ok. Now my husband helps me when I need it. I think it all depends on the person and the situation, I really don't think that there is a magic number. 

Diabetes camps in the summer are a great place to show you there's no textbook answer to this b/c you see kids of all ages handle the physical and emotional stress of diabetes well as the responsibility of daily care. 

Our camp is ages 8-17, and you have 8 year olds doing their own thing while 17 year olds newly diagnosed need help getting their insulin together.   A 9 year old pumping, a 15 year old scared of having to figure out a pump.  It's awesome b/c you have a kid come to this and see other kids do something a different way, or see another camper do something diabetes related they told themselves they'd never do and all the sudden their minds are blown and they're looking at their own treatment in a totally different way.

I wish there was a magic age.  It's so dependent on the kid and the parents.

I was diagnosed at 11, and pretty much took care of everything myself by day 2, which is how I wanted it, but it was definitely good knowing the parents' support was there at every step.

I was diagnosed by 4 and started doing my own shots by 5 (my mom would make sure I drew up correct dose and would watch me inject).  Glucose meters weren't around until I was 8, but I tested on my own from that time on.  Started summer camp at age 7 and all kids there did own shots. 

It obviously varies for each kid though.  Do what is best for yours. 

I would also add that it's really important for parents to supervise/help teens who do their own care.  As a teen I skipped shots, rarely tested, and lied to my parents about how great I was doind (my A1c of 14 told another story).  Wish my parents had been a little more hands on during that time when I was so irresponsible.

diagnosed at 12, started injecting myself at the hospital, no one else has ever given me a shot of insulin.

I was 4 and a half years old when I was diagnosed.


When I entered middle school (years 6 to 8), the training wheels were taken off and I was given more responsibility.

When I entere high school (years 9 to 12), I did everything on my own.

My daughter was diagnosed at 10 1/2. She began doing her own shots within the first two weeks. Now she is fully capable of doing everything herself (except like Rosalie, she doesn't like to insert her pump herself so she has me do it). She does still like me to take over and do her bg testing in the evenings, but I don't mind giving her a break. She's only been diagnosed about a year, so for being a relative newbie, I think she's pretty amazing.


My son was dx'd at 3.5 yrs. Right after the hospital he could tell someone how to check his blood (how to prep the meter, and use the lancet), but didn't have the coordination to do it himself. About 2 mos before he turned 5 he could check his own bg. It actually does take quite a bit of coordination that as an adult or older child, probably isn't considered. Just opening the test strip tube without making them fly out all over can be hard for a young child. :)

Now my son is learning how to run his pump's meter remote to bolus for carbs.

Ren - I'd like to know more about if you mean that after 1 month, did your parents not look at your BGs or help count carbs for you or figure out what insulin amount to give if you were high? THAT seems like a lot for a 9 yr old. But if you mean that after 1 month you were expected to test your BGs and give yourself shots, then I respect that.

Oh they definitely looked at my blood sugars until I was a teenager.

But they wouldn't give me my shots or test my blood sugars.  I'm going to venture out and guess that that was mostly my dad.  My mom would have given me my shots and checked my blood sugars for me until the cows came home. I hated it at first, I was terrified of needles and I didn't like pain.  I used to get super mad at my dad for not letting anyone help me, but now when I look back I'm super thankful. 

I'm not saying its not a huge responsibility, because it is, no doubt, and for kids who are diagnosed younger it definitely is a different situation and there is a point to what people say when they say it depends on the person.  but I also think my dad had the right idea, no diabetes isn't fair, and no it's not my fault I got it, but the fact simply was that I had it, and I still do, whether I thought I was ready or not, whether my mom thought I was ready or not, you have to get ready.  In my personal thinking, I'm glad I was forced by my dad to step up and take the wheel early on.  Not saying that it's necessarily babying someone, but at a certain point, you have to step back and tell them they need to take care of themselves.  Some children are self motivated, before I got type 1 I was not, now I totally am.

One thing I tell every new diabetic or a struggling diabetic: "Don't let Diabetes define who you are right now, let diabetes HELP define who you're going to be"


Diabetes will most likely always be apart of my life, but it will never control it, because I won't let it. 

I am 20 years old, I live on my own, I am fortunate enough to already have a great career that I love, I'm in a great relationship, I have great friends.  I grew up playing sports, most of the time ahead of my class in school.  I was in theatre, I took trips with friends without my parents, I live a great life, I eat cake when I want to, and I take insulin when I have to.  I love my life.

I know diabetics who are 30 and still live at home because they don't know how to live life on their own.  they could never play sports because they were never healthy enough.  They didn't have many friends because besides school they couldn't be away from their parents outside of school because they didn't want to give themselves their shots.  Each one of us chooses how we're going to deal with this.  Parents are a HUGE part of that choice.  If we don't have a reason to chose to become independent why would we?

I was diagnosed a couple months before my 6th birthday. I don't remember exactly at what age I started taking over though. I could do my own blood test within a month or so, shots took a little longer. I have a fraternal (non-diabetic) twin sister who actually would give me my shots when we stayed at our grandparents or a friends house during elementary school, so we pretty young but did just fine. I liked my shots in my am then and that was tricky to do by myself. I would say by 7 or so I could do my own shots in my stomach, but would alternate between doing them myself or having my mom or sister do them in my arms. By 9 or so I was basically independent, and I got a pump when I was 12 (7th grade), which nobody ever inserted for me except for the trainer the first time. My mom was very much involved for the first couple years, double checking my calculations and analyzing my numbers, but once she no longer needed to correct me, she let me handle most of it on my own, but was always ready to help me if I needed it.

I think a lot of the "age" question depends on what your child can handle. Needles and blood didn't really scare me, and I liked to be able to do stuff on my own, so I adapted quickly. My family was pretty healthy anyways before I was diagnosed, so I didn't have to deal with the disappearance of Oreo's and Lucky Charms, since we didn't eat that stuff anyways. I can imagine that a major dietary adjustment with young children could make this process even more challenging. But if your child isn't interested in taking control on their own, they are probably not ready and shouldn't be pushed. I think it will probably just occur naturally, much like insisting on picking out their own clothes. The sooner both you and your child are confident in their control, the easier it is to be more  "normal", sleepovers, pizza parties at school, things like that.