We've been lucky that the schools our son has attended have been supportive and very cooperative in meeting his needs. I must admit that I was nervous meeting with each school to talk about diabetes for the first time, and there were occasional tense moments when it seemed the school wanted to do things differently from the way we wanted.
But luckily we always found a solution that was good for our son and for the school. Be ready to advocate but also be willing to listen to what may have worked for the school in the past with other families with diabetes. Some stuff to keep in mind for preparing your son or daughter for back to school:
Remember to get your endocrinologist to sign all the pertinent medical forms for schools. Check with your school so that you have the proper forms that allow for the nurse or designated person to assist with testing and administering insulin. You should also develop a written plan that goes over the daily management and educational issues that may arise with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association strongly recommends completing formal Section 504 Plans.
The Children with Diabetes website provides examples of plans specific to the age of the child and type of insulin therapy. Both of these sites are invaluable when pulling together information for school.
We meet with the school nurse a week before school starts. Nurses who are responsible for verifying medical forms are usually back at school earlier than teachers.
We also meet with the homeroom teacher prior to the chaotic first day, just to get him or her all the information and to make sure he or she is comfortable with joining our diabetes team. Our son attends both meetings so that we have consensus about how diabetes will be managed at school. Read Mary Kate Cary's "Diabetes - Don't Wait for the Parent Teacher Conference - here's what to Say NOW" for some great practical advice.
The Nurse meeting: Make sure to go over everything you have in your diabetes box (see "Diabetes at School Part 1: What to Bring") and ask the nurse if she needs anything else. Nurses who have worked with multiple children with diabetes can offer great ideas. We usually go into the meeting with an outline about how to manage diabetes at school specific to our child. We have a draft 504 plan with us, but we haven't felt the need to go through it line by line because our schools have been very supportive. I know some people who have not been that lucky and needed to formalize their 504 plans and go through it in detail not only with the nurse but with school administrators. A formal 504 plan is signed by the school administration.
We see our outline as a starting point for the discussion, and the plan may evolve through talking with the nurse. Our outline includes: a schedule for blood sugar testing, how to treat low and high blood sugars, how to deal with lunch, snacks and unexpected food, plans for physical education, and when to call a parent.
The Teacher Meeting: Some of our best meetings have included the school nurse, who is usually well versed with the specific teacher's diabetes experience. We usually start the teacher meeting with Josh doing a quick demonstration of a blood sugar test and showing his insulin pump. We want the teacher to see how he tests and to understand the process. For a younger child, be sure to include specific training about who will test and how testing should be performed.
We discuss symptoms of high blood sugar and what should be done. We make sure our child can have unlimited access to water and to the bathroom. We discuss symptoms of low blood sugar and how to treat it. We also discuss that diabetes is not an excuse for missed work, but that some things will have to be done later or made up if Josh's blood sugar is low or very, very high. Check out the ADA's new one-page handout entitled "Ten Tips for Teachers."
While writing this I realized that I lost my outlines, 504 plan drafts and diabetes instructions when my computer crashed last spring. So I'm starting from scratch, like some of you may be doing.
Good luck! Be proactive. Teach your child to be proactive, and I hope that you have wonderful teachers and a school nurse join your diabetes team this year.
Published On: August 21, 2007