Back to School with Diabetes
When fall arrives, it’s back-to-school time. And for some kids, it’s back to dealing with diabetes in the classroom. These tips can help your student stay safe and healthy at school.
Make a diabetes management plan
This is a document put together by you and your child’s healthcare team. It spells out your child's treatment plan. It includes emergency contacts and instructions for checking blood glucose and measuring insulin doses. It also includes information on taking pills, eating meals, exercising, and checking for ketones. Check that it explains exactly what to do in case of low or high blood sugar and who should do it. Give the school a copy of this plan. Also give the school testing supplies for blood sugar and urinary ketones and make sure they are stored correctly. Give the school a glucagon emergency kit and clarify where it should be kept and who should use it. The school may also need to create its own plan based on your child's healthcare team's advice. Clearly label all medicine and supplies with your child's name plus instructions. Update the treatment plan if the healthcare provider's advice changes during the year.
Meet with school staff
Review your child’s own needs with the school. Check that your child is able to follow the diabetes plan at school. Ask that the school nurse attend the meeting. If school staff is not familiar with diabetes, ask that the nurse do an in-service for all employees. This includes administrators, teachers, and support staff. Support staff includes school bus drivers, recess monitors, aides, and after-school coaches.
Discuss the possibility of an individualized education plan (IEP) for your child. Understand your school's policies and emergency procedures related to diabetes. Schedule regular meetings with your child's teacher and school nurse to check that things are going well. You can also address any concerns at these meetings. Depending on your child's age and the classroom atmosphere, your child may want classmates taught about diabetes. This can be done by the school nurse. Or your child may want to help teach the class, depending on their age.
The school nurse can be your child's advocate. If additional education is needed for your child's teacher or support staff, ask the nurse to provide the employees with an update. Be sure that your child's having diabetes is taken into consideration in any classroom modifications necessitated by increased health risks, such as COVID-19. Your child has the right to still take part in all school-sponsored activities. Request follow-up team meetings whenever you feel they are needed.
Have your child wear a medical alert ID at all times
A medical alert ID can help make sure your child gets correct treatment in an emergency. Also have your child always carry a fast-acting source of glucose. Check that they know how to use it. If your child is too young, tell school staff about the signs of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). They must be able to give the correct help when needed. Check that the school has emergency contact information for you and at least 2 other backup contacts if you are not available. Again, ask where the emergency contact information will be located so the appropriate people have immediate access.
Be a positive voice for your child
Remember that your child can't be denied equal access to school activities because they have diabetes. Local parent support groups and the American Diabetes Association can refer you to resources that protect your child's rights in the school system. Depending on how severe your child's diabetes is, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act may be able to give more support for your child's health and educational needs.