Book Review of
“The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes”
in Renewal Magazine

by Patrice Maynard
Renewal Magazine: A Journal for Waldorf Education

We have traded the acute inflammatory illnesses of the first half of the twentieth century - measles, pertussis, and polio, to name a few - for chronic, non inflammatory illnesses such as asthma, chronic fatigue syndrome, and juvenile diabetes. The desire to eliminate symptoms as quickly as possible, however, still dominates mainstream medicine. To question physicians about alternative approaches that may take effect more slowly than symptom­ destroying medicines but that perhaps touch the underlying causes of illness takes courage and determination, as does implementing an alternative approach.


Laura Plunkett is a psychotherapist living in Marblehead, Massachusetts. When her son, Danny, was seven years old and a first grader at the Cape Ann Waldorf School in Beverly, MA. he was diagnosed with type I diabetes. This is a life-threatening chronic illness that is increasing all over the world. In her book "The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes: Family Strategies for Raising a Healthy Child", written with her mother, former Boston Globe columnist Linda Weltner, Plunkett chronicles her own and her extended family's courageous, determined, and ultimately successful attempts to deal with her son's illness in a holistic manner.

“There was, of course, the shock and heartbreak caused by the diagnosis. This was followed by the transformation of family life.”

There was, of course, the shock and heartbreak caused by the diagnosis. This was followed by the transformation of family life. Activities alien to normal home life-giving shots, administering urine tests, calculating carbohydrates and ketones in foods, and watching vigilantly for symptoms of low and high blood sugar levels in an active little boy-became part of the daily routine.

Throughout the process, Plunkett, goaded by her intuition, asked questions:

  • Why is eating junk food considered normal for a child in our culture?
  • Why, in a critical moment, do physicians simply increase the dose of insulin rather than try to improve the overall well-being of the child?
  • Why is a holistic approach difficult to implement with juvenile diabetes?

Plunkett describes how she, along with other members of her family, did research, made the family diet more healthful, found help in alternative modes of treatment, made exercise fun, educated Danny's teachers about his condition and his needs, and made and shared valuable discoveries in the process of adjusting to her son's illness. Her insights led her family down an unconventional path, one which perhaps many Waldorf parents will find interesting and understandable.

Ultimately, the gift of Plunkett's book is to lessen the loneliness of other parents who have a child with diabetes. To read this book is to understand that, in such a situation, feelings such as denial, resentment, anger, fear, and alienation are natural and universal. To read this book is to find a friend who offers comfort by sharing her family's experiences of intimacy, support, friendship, and gratitude.

“Parents will find it worthwhile to share this book with others involved in their child's care.”

The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes makes the case that even dark events have gifts to give and that diabetes is not an exception. Indeed, Plunkett's reactions and suggestions seem applicable to all families caring for a child with a chronic illness. Parents will find it worthwhile to share this book with others involved in their child's care. After all, a child is raised by the whole community as well as by a particular family. The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes encourages readers to participate actively in deciding how to care for a child with a chronic illness, keeping in mind the deep, loving attention every child needs.

Laura Plunkett is a columnist for Diabetes Health & Diabetesincontrol.com and an expert on Parentingdiabetickids.com. She speaks around the country on "The Challenges of Childhood Diabetes: Strategies for Raising Healthy Children and "Raising Wholesome Children in a Fast-Food World." The Plunkett family has been featured on television and radio as advocates of improving nutrition, increasing exercise and working as a team. Laura and her mother are co-authors of the book, “The Challenge of Childhood Diabetes: Family Strategies for Raising a Healthy Child.” Laura can be reached at: lauramplunkett@challengeofdiabetes.com