Q: Our daughter really wants to start checking her blood sugar in the classroom, because she does not like missing class time to go visit the nurse. We’ve received pushback from the school though. What kind of plan could we present to put their minds at ease?

A: As kids grow up, it makes sense that their preferences and needs for managing blood sugar at school will change right along with them. Getting a reluctant school on board with incorporating new ways of handling things like blood sugar checks often comes down to approaching administrators with a firm plan of how to make this transition a successful one.

Why are some schools resistant to in-class blood sugar checks in the first place? It usually comes down to three main concerns. It can be helpful — and persuasive — if you respond to these when devising your daughter’s new care plan:

  • Contamination: A common concern on the part of schools is the possibility that other students will come in contact with blood if glucose testing occurs in the classroom. To head off this issue, think about incorporating into your plan guidelines that call for your child to test in a designated corner of the room where hygiene items, including anti-bacterial wipes and a sharps container for used lancets, will be stored. If this still doesn’t put administrators’ minds at ease, it can help to remind them that every day in classrooms, kids are getting nose bleeds, paper cuts or nicking themselves with scissors. Chances are these incidents pose more of a risk for blood contact than your child discreetly carrying out a blood sugar check with proper supplies.
  • Distraction: Some schools counter the request for in-class blood sugar checks with concerns that this will be a distraction to other students. However, blood sugar testing is typically only a distraction when children aren’t aware of what their classmate is doing. If needed, you, the school nurse, or your child (if she is comfortable doing so) can give a quick demonstration showing how a blood sugar check is carried out along with a brief explanation of why your daughter needs to do this daily. It’s amazing how quickly students accept this kind of thing as no big deal and just part of the routine once they understand why it’s happening.
  • Communication: How will your child communicate with the school nurse or staff member responsible for her care if she is low or needs some other assistance? It’s a reasonable question, so be prepared with an answer. Can your daughter text her test result to the school nurse or staff member — or send an email or even call from the classroom phone or her cell phone to pass along this information?

Presenting a plan that responds directly to whatever specific concerns your school has may be enough to convince them to at least give this new arrangement a try. You can even suggest a trial run for a few days so that administrators and the school nurse feel comfortable that your daughter is committed to making the new plan work.

If you continue to run into resistance, you may still have options. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 outlines the reasonable accommodations that students with certain medical conditions must be afforded if they need to leave the classroom for health-related reasons. This includes diabetes. If your daughter is missing instruction time to go to the nurse, it’s reasonable under a 504 Plan to request that the missed instruction time be made up. This might mean meeting with the teacher before or after school or during the teacher’s break. Many parents report that this kind of request is effective for opening up negotiations with the school over making changes to the plan.

What if your child attends a private school that doesn’t receive federal funding and is therefore not required to accommodate 504 Plans? It’s still reasonable to make a request to change her blood sugar testing routine. For extra support, check in with your diabetes care team for their tips on how to get your child’s school on board. With a little persistence and careful planning, you may still be able to find a situation that works for everyone involved.

Kathy Knowlton–Kathy Knowlton, L.C.S.W., C.D.E., is the diabetes education program coordinator at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, Neb.

How Other Parents Deal

“I love our school, because I’ve felt from the very first phone call to inform them of our daughter’s diagnosis that everyone — from the teachers to the nurse to the principal — views me as the expert on my daughter’s care. There are supportive schools out there!”

–Andrea L., Sacramento, Calif., mom of 7-year-old Katie

Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.

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