Diabetes at School: Private Schooling & Packed Lunches: The Happier, Happy Meal

by Leighann on August 10, 2011

Each day this week I have the privilege of sharing guests posts from terrific D-Moms, D-Dads, and D-Kids, who are talking back-to-school. Today’s post is contributed by the witty Mandy Childress. She shares a bit about sending her child to a private school and packing lunches. Because it’s a private school, it’s up to their family to cover his care at lunchtime.

Private Schooling & Packed Lunches: The Happier, Happy Meal

(some assembly required)

***Disclaimer*** I am not a licensed healthcare provider, nor am I a dietician. All info included in this writing is based on my son’s and my own experiences. It is in no way to be perceived as medical advice. Always contact your doctor for medical care and before making any changes to your diabetes protocol.

In the summer of 2008, two weeks before my son was to begin his first grade year, we were handed (more like force fed) the diabetes diagnosis. From that day forward our lives, meals, and daily routine would never be the same.

This was taken the second day of our stay at Riley Children’s Hospital. Even sick, he was able to play and smile. We used this picture with the words edited in to send to family and friends who were helping us through our rough time. It was signed “I’m ok! Love- Trevor Clay”

Once discharged from the hospital (with three days of diabetes education behind us, a binder full of info clutched in my arms, and a cell phone full of contact numbers) we ventured out into our new lives. Me, terrified, and Trev ready to get the heck outta Dodge.

Private Schooling:

Fast forward three years. Trev attends a private school for children with learning process differences. On top of having diabetes, Trev is severely Dyslexic. He started his first grade year two weeks after his other classmates. Due to the diabetes diagnosis I had to make a care plan and train the teachers and staff before he could attend. I am happy to say (starting his 4th grade year this fall) that he has maintained an A – B average the entire time he has attended this school. He does not let his diabetes get in the way. Every year before the start of the new school session I conduct a diabetes education class for all staff. They learn how to check Trev’s blood if he cannot, and how to give a glucagon injection. I basically use an abbreviated version of the training I got when he was in the hospital. I also give them a shortened definition of type 1 diabetes and explain why Trev’s pancreas doesn’t work like most peoples.

The key to school (really any school setting your child is in) is communication, communication, communication. Did I mention communication? A school journal is kept with his supplies that teachers and staff can record his blood sugars and observations of possible sugar related behaviors and symptoms in. I am lucky to have staff and teachers that are willing to do what is needed for Trev, open to suggestions, and helpful. They have played an important role in his care many times during “bad days” when sugars were extremely high or low. We have sat and discussed safety and guidelines for Trev in regards to fitness class, and curriculum has been adjusted for him accordingly.

Due to insurance liabilities the staff can only do so much in regards to medical care. They are not able to administer his insulin at lunch, however in an emergency they can administer the glucagon shot. With staff not able to give him his insulin, and Trev not ready to take on that responsibility, my Dad or I are going to the school daily to supervise his lunch half hour. The school also does not have a cafeteria in the public school definition of cafeteria. So it’s packed lunches and snacks every day.

Packed Lunches: The Happier, Happy Meal? Yes…and No.

So I have a few confessions right up front. Sometimes there are days when I just want to be lazy…and instead of packing a lunch, I go buy a fast food meal. I’m tired (all the time) and on occasion this is how I gain that extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning. Seriously folks those mornings the snooze button is my best friend. So really it’s not being lazy especially because I’m still figuring all the carb totals, still going to the school to give the insulin, and still packing the day’s snacks. To clarify, I definitely don’t believe it is ok to feed a child fast food as the majority of their diet. However, an occasional fast food meal paired with healthy choices I feel is an okay alternative and isn’t going to be the end all either. I’m realistic. Everything in moderation.

Another confession: When I first started packing his lunches, we were very much in the infancy of his diagnosis. He was in honeymoon, and I somehow got it in my head that if he ate the same thing for lunch every day, with the same carb load there would be fewer chances for surprises. (I know, I know…all you D-Mama’s and Pop’s out there are shaking your heads…oh silly girl.) I was afraid to step out of the “comfort zone” with the foods I knew and that ultimately (now that I’m a bit more experienced in diabetes arts) was not only wasted effort (because no matter what you do surprises like high and low sugars will happen) it wasn’t allowing Trev the freedom he so badly needed to understand he had, and could have even with diabetes. So out of the comfort zone I stepped, and jumped feet first into learning by doing. It seems diabetes is very much this way.

Confession #3: I have developed a taste for fruit snacks. Especially the SpongeBob variety. I will include a package of them in Trev’s lunch sometimes as a treat, and then I include a package in my bag. I don’t know what it is about them that have me addicted, but I am. The first step to realizing an addiction is admitting to it. Hello, my name is Mandy and I love SpongeBob fruit snacks. I buy an extra box, knowing I’ll be eating them too. There! I said it! That’s a load off my mind! (sheepish grin here)

***note*** after typing the above paragraph, I found myself craving a packet of SpongeBob fruit snacks…and wouldn’t you know it!!! There in my work bag was a packet ready to be devoured. I am my own enabler! (another sheepish grin here)

Creativity with meals: The arts and crafts of the food world!


Balanced diet: What goes into a packed lunch for good nutrition and carb balance?

Really, you can have both! I was lucky in the sense that Trev was never a picky eater. He ate foods most toddlers would turn their cherub faces away from and punctuate the action of doing so by crossing their arms and stating a resounding “NO!” So thankfully I have a very nice variety of foods I can include.

Whenever I’m packing his lunch, I keep in mind the basic food groups. I try to include one item from each group in every meal.

I also sneak little notes into his lunch bag, which is good for two things…it lets him know I am proud and love him, and he gets more reading practice (without realizing he’s getting the practice). Win…win.

I usually try to stay between 65 – 100 grams of carbs for his meals. However, sometimes he does want more, and sometimes the actual meal is more carb load. I’ve just learned that (for us anyway) it isn’t realistic to be able to always maintain a strict carb load goal. We use a sliding scale for insulin doses, and that is a tremendous help. It allows Trev to decide he doesn’t want anymore, or that he doesn’t want a food item. It’s all about maintaining the freedom to eat what he wants and how much he wants.

I also try to remember that I am not perfect; some days are not perfect, not all meals will be perfect, and his sugars are not always going to be consistent or perfect. I do the best I can possibly do for Trev, and that’s all I was ever asked or expected to do before and after his diabetes diagnosis. It is easier to swim with the current, than to swim against it.

Dear Reader,

You are cordially invited to attend a reading of

“Lunch with Trev”

Please review the menu for today’s lunch selection below

We will break the meal up into food groups and then add creativity for a whimsical twist

~ Menu ~

Turkey & cheese served on whole wheat bread

  • (grain, meat, and dairy)
  • 30g carbs
  • *cookie cutter sandwich into fun shapes, leaving the crust to be eaten since its part of the carb count
  • *Ketchup packets available if desired – apply in smiley face or zigzag patterns at time of meal

1.5oz fresh blueberries

  • (fruit)
  • 15g carbs

8 to 10 carrot sticks

  • (Vegetable)
  • 5g carbs

Choice of juice, un-sweet tea, or water

  • Juice – 15g carbs
  • Tea & Water – 0g carbs

Pudding cup (chocolate or vanilla)

  • (fats/junk food)
  • 20g carbs

A note from mom or dad

  • *A creative way to remind your little one (or big kid) you love them and are proud
  • 0g carbs…but full of warm fuzzies.

“Not everything that is faced can be changed.

But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

~ James Baldwin

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