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Children with Diabetes: Focus on Technology

It was a tremendous weekend full of fun, learning, and unequaled support. One hundred seventy-five people from as close as San Diego and as far away as Australia joined us for the CWD Focus on Technology conference at the La Jolla Marriott, October 2-4. Nearly half of the participants were newly-diagnosed. Everyone was there to listen, learn, share, and see the new technology presented by the speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors.

Registration opened on Friday at 7:00, and all of the CWD families stopped by the desk to pick up their packets, name badges, conference t-shirts… and a warm welcome by our CWD registration staff led by Julia Mattingly and Bernadette Tull. The exhibit area opened along with a yummy reception hosted by our sponsors. Representatives from the various sponsor companies spent the weekend with CWD families, discussing their products and keeping conference participants up to date on the newest and best diabetes management tools available. Sponsors included Abbott Diabetes Care, Accu-Chek/Disetronic, Animas, Insulet, LifeScan, Novo Nordisk, and sanofi-aventis.

The conference was divided into several tracks for Saturday and Sunday, with the teens, tweens, and elementary aged children all heading off to their own separate areas, the little ones going to childcare, and the adults having general sessions as well as breakout sessions more specific to individual interests.

Joe Solowiejczyk, always a favorite with CWD audiences, opened with a keynote called "Focus on The Future: Balancing Between Here and There." Joe talked about his own 40+ years with type 1 diabetes and reflected on how the technology has changed through the years. And then he shared with the participants that the technology is only as solid as the person/family using it… technology in itself doesn't solve any challenges. People using the technology in a positive way make the difference.

Following the keynote session, Jim Vail presented "Technology 101" which had two components including an overview of the tools that we use to manage type 1 diabetes, and then a discussion of best care suggestions supported by the most recent science. Jim has type 1 diabetes himself and has great insight into using the technology day to day. He is also quite funny!

Gary Scheiner presented several sessions during this Focus on Technology conference. His first session, "Kids, Sports, Pumps, and Sensors" offered very practical advice about how to use the most current technology to keep our kids healthy while they are being active, whether in sports or otherwise. He later in the conference presented a session about "Making Sense of Sensor Data" which guided parents through using and understanding continuous sensing devices. Gary's very straightforward explanations helped parents understand why the data from continuous sensors is so helpful, and he noted the types of changes that can be made based upon that data.

After a wonderful outdoor BBQ, John Walsh talked with parents about Pumping Basics, while Crystal Jackson discussed Managing Type 1 Diabetes in Schools. Crystal, who is the Associate Director of Legal Advocacy at the American Diabetes Association, had many great suggestions for parents who are using diabetes technology such as insulin pumps and continuous sensors in the classroom. She also stressed that it is important to speak up and advocate for change when one encounters resistance to using current diabetes technology in the public school classroom. John Walsh, recognized by many as the Insulin Pump Guru, helped newly diagnosed families understand how an insulin pump functions and why both children and adults utilize an insulin pump in their diabetes management. Following the 'basics' session, John addressed "Using Advanced Pumping Features" for people who were already pumping and looking for more sophisticated strategies.

Joe Solowiejczyk finished the afternoon's presentations with "It's Not Just a Numbers Game." In this session, Joe stressed that type 1 diabetes involves so much more than blood glucose numbers. It involves all family members, friends and community, communication among everyone, support, sharing honest emotions, and even saying "I hate this." He also stressed that diabetes management, i.e., measuring blood glucose, counting carbs, taking insulin, is never an option for any child or adult – it is a given and not negotiable.

Saturday evening, parents, kids, and sponsors gathered for a wonderful Italian dinner (the caprese salad and sea bass were exceptional!). After dinner, parents continued to talk into the evening, and two discussion groups were held as well. Natalie Bellini and Jim Vail led a discussion with Parents of Teens, while Crystal Jackson led a problem-solving discussion for families with kids in public schools. Natalie grew up as a teen with type 1 diabetes, and her insight into that experience (as well as her current experience of being a mom with an older teenager) made this particular discussion group a 'don't-miss.'

On Sunday morning, Dr. Steve Edelman presented the keynote "Continuous Sensing." Dr. Edelman, in a very upbeat and sometimes humorous presentation, helped parents understand continuous sensing and how it is utilized. He had many wonderful examples and illustrations which helped everyone see in a concrete manner how continuous sensing is used day to day by kids and adults with type 1 diabetes.

Later in the morning, Natalie Bellini led a discussion about "Choosing the Right Infusion Set." Natalie is known at CWD conferences for her no-nonsense (and sometimes very funny) presentation style, and she discussed the pros and cons of all of the infusion sets and sensors currently on the market. She also demonstrated how each infusion set and sensor works and looks when applied. Most importantly, Natalie stressed the importance of site rotation. This doesn't mean side to side, using the same two spots over and over. It means moving the set to at least several dozen different places on a person's body.

After a lunch break (a delicious deli buffet, but too cool and windy outdoors for a picnic), Natalie led a discussion about Sick Day Management. She problem-solved with the parents in her very interactive style, requesting scenarios of sick-days they have experienced, and then talking through potential management strategies.

CWD's dietitian Mike Schurig led a discussion about how to use advanced pump features for counting carbs. He also discussed realistic carb-counting, i.e., accounting for the portion size on the plate instead of the portion size in the book or on the computer screen. The parents had some great questions for Mike and the interaction covered a lot of carb-counting territory!

Sunday was also discussion group day – and there were some great opportunities! The moms discussion group, led by Lauren Lanning and Michelle Rago covered a range of topics. Same with the dads group led by Jim Stone. Both groups reported that – as always with these discussions - there wasn't nearly enough time for everyone to share their ideas, but it was a good start and it was yet another opportunity to share ideas!

The teens combined a mix of some very serious discussion with some very fun hands-on learning activities. The teens spent Sunday afternoon ice skating at the La Jolla rink! Many thanks to teen staffers Chris Tull, Heather Speer, and Libby Nordstrum for helping out with all of these activities!

The tween group - ages 10-12 – also had a wonderful mix of learning and fun. During the weekend, the tweens had the opportunity to meet Doug Burns and learn about his fitness training and competition! They also had some great discussion with Fitness Instructor Harold Sanco and CWD Dietitian Mike Schurig regarding how to manage diabetes, diet, and exercise in a healthy way. Tween program leaders Melissa Ringley, Justin Abel, and Jim Stone led a rousing (truly!) game of Diabetes Taboo. You need to see this to believe it – and it is so much fun and so informative ... the kids really learn a lot (without recognizing sometimes that this is a learning activity).

Both the tween and elementary groups participated in Scavenger Hunts which had them scouring the hotel - and interviewing CWD staff, conference exhibitors, and hotel staff - for tidbits of information, some relating to diabetes, some not. This was a very hectic and fun activity for the kids ... and the hotel staff shared that this was a lot of fun for them as well. They loved interacting with our children. Both tweens and elementary kids also had pool time. Again, many thanks to the pool volunteers, and the Marriott housekeeping staff who kept us well-stocked with dry towels!

The elementary age children, led by Lauren Lanning, Michelle Rago, Sunshine Abel, Ben Stroud, Kelsey Martin, and Trevor Tull, enjoyed arts and crafts activities, some very fun active time at the pool, discussion and play time, and interactive diabetes games. They also truly enjoyed the visit and interaction with Doug Burns as well as the workout sessions with Harold!

The youngest conference participants – ages 3-5 – spent Saturday and Sunday in childcare with Miss Alanna and staff Mark Chambers, Kara Duwe, and Melissa Pawlowski. They had crafts time, story time, exercise time, music time ... and best of all, the fort they built from blankets, chairs, and pillows for their quiet movie time! Many thanks to all of you for being such great group leaders to the youngest CWD participants.

What would a CWD conference be without Harold? This would be Harold Sanco, aka Human Caffeine. Harold loves working with CWD kids and adults at our conferences, and he spent time with each age group including the parents and the childcare kids! We had some pretty great workouts and stretches, and we combined these with some really good information from our CWD dietitians and staff about how to fuel our bodies in a healthy way for exercise!

Additional thanks go to Dex4 for sending boxes and boxes of glucose tabs, all of which were distributed to parents by Sunday afternoon! While staff, kids, and parents did, indeed, fight low blood sugar challenges as a result of lots of active play in the pool and out, it was a great experience for all of us to discuss and handle these challenges together. It encouraged a lot of sharing regarding what works with temporary basals, infusion set adhesive, fast glucose, identifying impending lows ... and somehow the challenges just aren't that discouraging when you face them with friends!

CWD dietitian Mike Schurig once again spent months pulling together some great, healthy menus (and portion sizes and carb counts) for all of our meals and snack breaks. He created a wonderful gluten free buffet at each meal and snack time for those who needed them. It always amazes the hotel management and dietary staff that we spend so much time and effort on this particular facet of our conferences ... but it is probably the most important thing that makes families feel safe about spending the weekend at a CWD event. So, kudos to Mike for another job well done ... and many thanks to the Chef and catering staff at the Marriott for following instructions down to the last letter!

CWD would not be able to hold conferences at all if not for the continued and consistent generosity of our sponsors. Many thanks to our sponsors including Abbott Diabetes Care, ACCU-CHEK, Animas, Insulet, LifeScan, Novo Nordisk, and sanofi aventis. Their generosity in supporting CWD events and families, as well as their passion for helping our kids and everyone with diabetes to lead a full and healthy life, is extraordinary.

Finally, a big hug to the many people who helped out with this conference. You know who you are. We couldn't do this without you, and you have our most sincere thanks.

Kids signed the event panel for the Quilt for Life
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Melissa and Kara were first time staff, helping in childcare
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Families learned about the latest diabetes care tools from our sponsors
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Harold helped the kids learn how fun exercise can be
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Glucose checks keep the kids safe during pool time
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The teen group had a great time ...
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The Mintz family's shirts said it all -- Type 1 Dad, Type 1 Mom, Type 1 Kid, and Type 1 Brother
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The elementary kids made dolls of themselves
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CWD's Focus on Technology Conference in La Jolla was Sponsored By:
Abbott Diabetes Care Animas Corporation OmniPod LifeScan Novo Nordisk ACCU-CHEK sanofi-aventis

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