Excuse me if I get a teensy bit emotional. James has attended four different public schools as he’s progressed from transitional kindergarten to eighth grade. This makes it sound like we moved around a lot, but actually he’s been at the same school now — we’ll call it School W for Wonderful — for the past six years. And for all of those six years he’s been in the care of one very special health tech.
When James started at this school, he had had a kind of negative experience with the school nursing staff at his prior school. We’ll call that one School F (for Fabulous but Flawed!). The nurses were never unkind, but they were reluctant to do some things that we felt were really in James’ best interest. For us, the big problem was that James’ blood sugar tended to drop very rapidly and without a lot of warning. The setup at this particular school was such that the classes were quite far from the office. Because of his problem with precipitous lows, I asked if they could please check his blood sugar in the classroom. This was an accommodation that we’d had without issue in the school just prior (we’ll call that one School O for Outstanding but Out of the Area after we moved), so we knew that this accommodation was not unreasonable. Well, it turned into a bit of a battle. We did work things out, and the year ended on a high note, but the tension did not escape James’ notice.
I’ve written about it before, but it was the most wonderful thing to arrive at School W, his current school, on the very first day of classes to meet his new health tech. It was not a long introduction. I told her James has type 1 diabetes, and she just looked up at me and said, “Okay. What do I need to do to keep him safe?” It was just such a refreshing attitude, such a relief, and it shaped the way that the past six years have gone.
Ironically, we soon discovered that in-classroom blood sugar checks weren’t necessary at School W. It has a completely different layout whereby the classrooms circle the office and large windows allow the staff to be able to survey what is happening in the quad. So I had no problem with James reporting to the office for his testing at this school. I suppose this is testament to why every school situation plays out a little bit differently with diabetes. Little details become important.
But to come full circle, there was an incident recently where the health tech did need to go to James’ classroom, and I found the experience to be strangely touching. School W has these minicourses that they offer twice a year. They’re four-week courses that meet once a week on Fridays for an hour. Their purpose is to expose the kids to something interesting and educational but fun. James was in a minicourse on Video Game Trivia, of all things, and he loved it. The minicourses are held during the last hour of the day, and wouldn’t you know it, during the last 15 minutes of the last class, I got an alert on my phone that James was low.
It made me sad to think that James would have to miss the last 15 minutes of something so relatively short that he enjoyed so much. I called the school to let them know, but they also follow his blood sugars via CGM (continuous glucose monitor), and so they also received an alert. I was unable to connect with the health tech… because she was already on her way to the classroom, walking a juice box to James — even though that isn’t even the protocol anymore! — so that he didn’t have to miss any of his beloved class. And that, my friends, is the action of a school professional that truly has the needs of the child in mind.
Of all the acts of service that she’s done for our family over the years, and there have been many, there was a kind of symbolism in her delivering that juice box that touched my heart very deeply. Sometimes it really is the small things that teach us the most. During James’ last year at this wonderful school before moving up to high school, that act confirmed what I had known for years — that James could not have been in more loving or capable hands.
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.