It’s that time of year again to start assembling your backpack to head back to school. What does that mean for a child with type 1 diabetes?
Diabetes is a 24-hour responsibility. Ensuring that your child is well taken care of during the school day involves a team approach, with a parent-school partnership to develop a plan for success in managing your child’s diabetes.
To get started on the right foot, it’s helpful if the parent makes an appointment to meet with the teacher, school nurse and principal prior to school starting to create a plan to provide the best and safest learning environment possible. This will be especially important if the child has been newly diagnosed with diabetes. Never assume that the staff knows your specific routine, even if they’ve had past experience with kids with diabetes in the classroom. The needs of the parents, student and school must be mutually communicated, heard and understood.
Some of the parents’ responsibilities will be to:
• Provide information on management of diabetes by a certified diabetes educator for training school staff.
• Provide specific information on your child’s care routine.
• Provide necessary equipment, supplies, snacks/meals and emergency items, such as glucose tablets and a glucagon kit.
• Provide emergency phone numbers for contact people and the child’s physician.
• Work with appropriate school personnel to develop a 504 Plan. A 504 Plan provides reasonable accommodations for your child. These should be accommodations that your child needs in special circumstances, such as field trips or track meets.
Responsibilities of the school personnel are to:
• Coordinate a time for staff training in diabetes and demonstrate to the parent that you will do everything in your power to keep the child safe
• Create a “system” for reminders to yourself for being aware of signs and symptoms of concern, especially for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
• Be familiar with how to check the child’s blood sugar. Determine where these checks will take place, whether that is in the classroom, office or school nurse’s office.
• Work with the parent to develop a process to cooperatively and amicably address disagreements or issues if and when they arise.
Rules to follow for schools:
• Rule 1: When a student with diabetes thinks he or she is having low blood sugar, confusion or inability to concentrate may happen. Always have a dependable person escort the child to get help.
• Rule 2: When in doubt, if the student with diabetes is experiencing a blood sugar problem and their monitor is not readily available to check the level, treat as if he or she were having low blood sugar by giving them something to eat like graham crackers or a granola bar. Check the blood sugar level as soon as possible to determine a further course of action.
• Rule 3: If the student with diabetes begins to lose consciousness or experience convulsions, have him or her lie on their side to prevent injury or choking, and call 9-1-1.
When a child with diabetes heads back to school, training and communication with school personnel will support a team approach and promote a successful year for all.
Janice Tate is a registered nurse and diabetes educator at Community Medical Center.