http://greenvilleonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080102/CITYPEOPLE/801020342/1062 Tracey Minten spends time with her twin daughters, Virginia, left, and Wallace at their home. GWINN DAVIS/Staff Dietician advocates for children with chronic illnesses Published: Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - 2:53 pm By Rebecca Roper CONTRIBUTING WRITER As a registered dietitian, Tracey Minten has always been interested in healthy eating habits. But she never knew just how close to her heart that training would come until her twin daughters were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. "It's frightening when your child is diagnosed," she said. Minten's daughter, Wallace, was diagnosed at age 2 and had to endure insulin shots for several years. Two years later, Wallace's twin, Virginia, was diagnosed at age 4. At that point, they both went on an insulin pump. Minten has 12- and 14-year-old daughters, as well. At home, everyone is served healthy meals, and yes, candy is allowed, but only in small doses. "They eat the same as everyone else," Minten said. "Because no one needs to just eat whatever they want." The pump and healthy lifestyle allow the twins, now 9, to live "normal lives" at home, Minten said. But the family faced another challenge when the girls started public school. Minten said she worried about her daughters' safety at school because there was no one in the classroom with them trained to recognize signs of hyperglycemia, and because the children were not always allowed to self monitor and self medicate as needed. "I was at my wit's end," she said. "I knew there had to be something out there under the anti-discrimination laws, but I couldn't put my finger on anything." She eventually put her finger on two federal laws and one state law that do protect her daughters' rights in the classroom. And now, she advocates in Upstate schools for children with chronic illness and holds workshops for parents to learn more about the laws. "South Carolina actually has quite a good law," Minten said. "But the schools are either ignorant of it or don't interpret it correctly." That law mandates that each child with a chronic disability has an individual health care plan, which provides a daily schedule of that child's medical care. It also says that children (deemed old enough) are allowed to self monitor and self medicate their illness in the classroom. Minten also discovered the Federal 504 rehabilitation act and the Americans with Disabilities Act were on her side. "The first children I advocated for were my own," she said. Last year the American Diabetes Association sent Minten to Chicago to train to officially become a school advocate for children with diabetes. She now meets with parents on an individual basis to help them make the headway they need, and she also teaches 1 1/2-hour sessions on the three laws at locations across the Upstate. Her next session will be held Jan. 24 at noon at Pelham Oaks Vision Center in Greenville. "It comes in spurts," she said. "I take as much time as that parent needs. Most of the parents are referred to me through the pediatric endocrinologist." Minten said the ADA is a "fabulous organization" to volunteer for because of the results they produce and the information they provide. And she feels she makes a difference each time a parent makes contact with her. "They are always so grateful," she said. She said she's heard of parents who quit their jobs in order to be at school where their children were and make sure they were being monitored. "No one should have to do that," she said. "Every child has a right to learn. If their blood sugar isn't right, they aren't learning."