One of the most common concerns parents have after their child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes is whether their child will be OK during the school day. “They are not with their child, and understandably they want to make sure the school staff can care for a child with diabetes,” says Dr. Steven Willi, director of the Diabetes Center for Children at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Don’t worry! The school has most likely enrolled other children with diabetes through the years, and the staff may be used to administering insulin. If not, your diabetes care team is available to help the school meet your child’s needs. To make the transition back to school easier, there are a few things you can do:
- Schedule a meeting. Set time with the people who can help you create the best plan for your child. This may include: a school nurse, your child’s teachers, the school principal, and a member of your child’s healthcare team. Your goal is to discuss your child’s specific diagnosis and needs, and develop a care plan that will be followed during the school day.
- Don’t neglect the health forms. Make sure they’re filled out promptly and completely every year. This gives the school a written plan to follow with all instructions and contact information in one place.
- Set up a 504 Plan. Under federal law (specifically, Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973), diabetes is considered a disability and schools are required to accommodate any special needs your child has. Drawing up a 504 Plan makes it official to the school that your child has diabetes and spells out exactly what’s necessary to help your child thrive in school. [Find more about 504 Plans here.]
- Give permission for your doctor to talk. A HIPAA agreement signed by a guardian is required for this. Dr. Willi advocates getting this consent so that your healthcare team can best communicate with school officials.
- Know when your child eats lunch. This may sound silly, but with school schedules the way they are today, some kids eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. and others at 1 p.m. The time affects your child’s insulin schedule. It’s the same with early dismissals, late arrivals, and half days. Dr. Willi’s advice: “Know what’s supposed to happen and what to do in case it doesn’t.”
Real Mom Tip: “My daughter is in a private school, and the school nurse used to be a diabetes counselor. Brynn goes to her office for blood testing. By this point, it’s been more than a year, so both Brynn and the nurse pretty much know what the numbers mean.” — Christina Coleman, Los Angeles
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.