Goodbye, summer. Hello, homework. And guess what—the first assignment isn’t for kids. Parents, make a game plan to ensure all the bases are covered for your child’s diabetes care at school.
Getting back into the routine of school takes a little more preparation for kids with diabetes, but it pays off over and over as the weeks and months go by. And since kids spend nearly half their waking hours in school, reliable diabetes care during the school day really matters.
Some older students will be comfortable testing their blood sugar, injecting insulin, and adjusting levels if they use an insulin pump. Younger students and those who just found out they have diabetes will need help with everyday diabetes care.
In a perfect world, all teachers and other school staff would understand how to manage diabetes so they could support your child as needed. But here in the real world, you’ll want to provide information to the school and work with staff to keep your son or daughter safe and healthy, no matter what the school day brings.
No two kids handle their diabetes exactly the same way. Before the year begins, meet with your child’s health care team to develop a personalized Diabetes Medical Management Planexternal icon (DMMP). Then visit the school and review the DMMP with the principal, office secretary, school nurse, nutrition service manager, teachers, and other staff who may have responsibility for your son or daughter during the day and after school.
The DMMP explains everything about diabetes management and treatment, including:
The DMMP works with your child’s daily needs and routine. Make sure to update it every year or more often if treatment changes.
You may want to work with the school to set up a 504 plan pdf icon[PDF – 325 KB]external icon that explains what the school will do to make sure your son or daughter is safe and has the same education opportunities as other students. The 504 plan makes the school’s responsibilities clear and helps avoid misunderstandings. A new plan should be set up each school year.
Work with teachers and other staff to make sure all the bases are covered for a safe and successful year.
The school nurse is usually the main staff member in charge of your student’s diabetes care, but may not always be available when needed. One or more backup school employees should be trainedexternal icon in diabetes care tasks and should be on site at all times during the day, including after-school activities. The 504 plan pdf icon[PDF – 325 KB]external icon explains how this works.
Make sure to visit the classroom(s). Some teachers may have had kids with diabetes in class before, but there’s still a learning curve because every student is unique—and so is every teacher.
This is a great time to talk about class rules. Are students allowed to leave the room without asking? Should they raise their hand? The more your child and teacher understand each other’s needs, the less disruptive and awkward self-care activities will be. You may want to ask if the teacher could talk to the class about diabetes—what it is and isn’t, what happens, and what needs to be done every day—without pointing out that your child has diabetes.
Also let the teacher know specific signs to look for if your son or daughter’s blood sugar is too low. Does he or she get irritable or nervous? Hungry or dizzy? The teacher may notice the signs before your child does and can alert him or her to eat an appropriate snack or get help.
Check in with nutrition services (school cafeteria) to get menus and nutritional information to help your child plan insulin use. Some students bring lunch from home because it’s easier to stick to their meal plan.
Kids with diabetes need to be physically active just like other kids. In fact, physical activity can help them use less insulin because it lowers blood sugar. Talk with the physical education instructor about what your kid needs to participate fully and safely.
And as the school year gets into full swing, get familiar with the daily school schedule, including any after-school activities. You’ll want to know where and when you can find your child if needed. Some parents use a free smartphone app to help them stay informed and in touch with their child.
Also make sure your child:
Field trips, sports, special events. Kids with diabetes can do it all.
In case of hypoglycemia, keep a go-to box of supplies in the school office or nurse’s office (and another in the classroom if possible). Label it with your child’s name and remember to keep it stocked!
Hypoglycemia can happen quickly and needs to be treated immediately. It’s most often caused by too much insulin, waiting too long for a meal or snack, not eating enough, or getting extra physical activity. Hypoglycemia symptomsexternal icon vary, so school staff should be familiar with your child’s specific symptoms (see the DMMP), which could include:
If your child has hypoglycemia several times a week, visit his or her health care provider to see if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted.