Summary: This is the first of three monthly excerpts about taking type 1 diabetes to school. In the coming months I’ll discuss talking to other kids about diabetes and the dreaded school party. There is an entire chapter in Kids First, Diabetes Second about diabetes management at school including information on 504 plans and developing a working relationship with teachers.
Here are some things that you can put in place so that diabetes management goes a bit more smoothly during the school day. While some of this has changed for us a little as Q becomes more independent, much of it has stayed the same as she entered middle school.
Now that Q has more activities in middle school, both at school and away from the school, we have relied on her texting me to let me know about blood sugars, etc.
Tips For Navigating The School Day
- Kids have a very short period of time to eat their lunch. Children with diabetes should be allowed to go to the front of the line to get their meal or milk.
- Ask if your school district publishes their menu and nutritional data on their website.
- If you need a substitution, ask for it. We ask that Q be given fresh fruit instead of juice when it’s served because juice can spike her blood sugar. The school district might require a letter from your doctor.
- Ask that the nurse not hover over your child, as socialization with peers is an important aspect of school.
- Ask that injections or insulin by pump be given promptly so that your child doesn’t miss recess, which is also important for socialization and daily physical activity.
- Lesson plans should clearly identify that your child has diabetes and specify who is trained in your child’s diabetes management.
- Include a simple one-to-two page instruction sheet including symptoms and treatments for low blood sugar. This instruction sheet should have a photograph of your child so a substitute teacher can identify her.
- The daily schedule should include times that diabetes-related activities ought to occur, including scheduled blood sugar checks and snacks.
- Remind the substitute teacher that the child has free access to water and the bathroom, and may need to see the nurse or other staff throughout the day.
Lockdowns and Severe Weather
- Lockdowns and severe weather are hopefully uncommon, but you need to develop a plan.
- Place an extra supply kit in the room where your child is likely to be during a lockdown or when students take cover for severe weather.
- Stock the supply kit with a blood glucose meter and test strips, fast-acting sugar for treating low blood sugar, glucagon, and snacks and water in case they are there for a long time. The kit should include a simple one-to two page instruction sheet including symptoms and treatments for low blood sugar and your phone number.
- Develop an exit strategy. Is there a window or another way for emergency workers to get to your child in case of a severe hypoglycemic event?
- Decide on a form of communication between the teacher and emergency workers or administration. Does the teacher have a cell phone, is there an intercom system, or can they be given walkie-talkies?
Taking the Bus
- Ask if your child can be the last one picked up in the morning and the first one dropped off after school. This will shorten the amount of time your child spends on the bus.
- Have your child’s blood sugar tested at the end of the school day before she or he gets on the bus. Work out a plan to treat low blood sugar on the bus. It may include having the child eat a snack, notifying the bus driver or monitor, and/or calling you.
- Is there a bus monitor? The monitor and the bus driver should be trained, just like school staff, to identify and treat low blood sugar.
- Have your child ride with a sibling or a buddy who can let the bus driver or monitor know if your child is having a low blood sugar, and can also make sure that your child gets home safely each day when dropped off at the bus stop.
- A trained person, besides the teacher, should accompany your child on fieldtrips. This can be the nurse, if available.
- The teacher may be too busy keeping track of the other students. A designated person, such as the nurse or yourself, can make sure blood sugar is checked and snacks are given at the scheduled times, and can treat low blood sugar.
- If the nurse is not available, consider volunteering as a chaperone.
- Don’t forget the diabetes supply bag. List it as a student on the roster so that it is accounted for before leaving school grounds and is not left behind.
If you’d like to learn more about the book, you can read more on the Kids First, Diabetes Second book page. It’s available widely in print and as an eBook from book sellers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, and IndieBound. And if you do read it and find it to be a valuable resource, I would greatly appreciate if you could write a review on any of the online retail sites. Thanks!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to booksellers.
Please remember that I never give medical advice. Ask your endocrinologist or pediatrician for advice about your own child. Make your own informed decisions for your own child.