We’ve made it through our first year of public school! Now it’s time to ramp up for first grade! Here are the top 10 things I learned from surviving kindergarten with type 1 diabetes:
- Meet with the nurse, principal, and teacher before the school year begins. This is for obvious reasons. We all needed to know we were on the same page so Kaitlyn could enjoy a fun and safe year.
- Be prepared for unexpected treats. Kaitlyn’s teacher was very good about giving the nurses and me a heads up regarding parties and food in the classroom, but occasionally, a parent would show up with an unexpected birthday treat. Whenever possible, I would have the nurse take care of it, but I ended up making last-minute trips to the school more times than I can count. It was really helpful to have a food scale and calorie book in the nurse’s office for homemade treats or whenever nutrition information was not available.
- Send extra supplies. Even though I never expected the nurse to have to change an infusion site, I sent the supplies anyway. That way, if I ever got a call while out and about, I could run right over to the school without having to make a stop at home to pick up the needed supplies. Extra test strips, fruit juice and glucose tabs, lancets, syringes, alcohol prep pads and a back-up meter were a must as well.
- Be cell-phone reliable. This was the first year I have ever been able to claim that I was cell-phone reliable. I had to be. Many times, the teacher or nurse needed my immediate attention for an unexpected treat, high or low blood sugar reading or even a couple of times, an infusion site failure.
- Keep in touch with the nurse. The easiest way for me to keep tabs on how Kaitlyn was doing was to communicate with her nurse on a daily basis. Kaitlyn had a small notebook that we kept in her lunch box that would travel to and from school every day. In the notebook, I would write down her daily carb count and write notes to the nurse when needed. I would give specifics on whether she was trending low or high or if she had an unusual breakfast. The nurse would write down her blood sugar numbers and let me know if there were any supplies that they were running out of.
- Texting is my new best friend. Any time Kaitlyn’s nurse wanted to talk to me during the day but didn’t need my immediate attention, she would just shoot me a text. It was a quick, easy way for us to communicate!
- Communicate with the teacher. I also kept in close contact with Kaitlyn’s teacher. We would email on a regular basis about upcoming class activities, parties, and field trips.
- Be open with other parents and kids. Most parents and children that we interacted with throughout the school year were genuinely interested in learning about Kaitlyn’s diabetes. Kaitlyn loved putting on a brave face for her friends when I would come into the classroom to test and dose for a treat. Parents were curious and supportive as well. Being open about diabetes helped diffuse otherwise uncomfortable situations and helped Kaitlyn know it wasn’t something she had to hide or feel overly private about.
- Embrace the fact that I will be going on a lot of field trips. Even though the school district was required to take care of Kaitlyn for any and all school activities, I just decided the easiest thing would be to come along. Only once, right after I had my baby, did I have to miss one, and the district nurse was able to accompany her.
- Stay positive. I can’t emphasize this enough! A positive attitude is contagious. If I’m happy on the diabetes front, the teacher is happy, the nurses are happy and, most importantly, Kaitlyn is happy!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.