Sending Your Child to School with Type 1 Diabetes: Early Preparation

Beth McNamara Health Guide
  • There's nothing worse than getting ready for a nice big long vacation and having someone wagging her finger at you, chastising you to hurry back or to not get too rusty and forget what you've learned while you're off on vacation. 

    Although it's against my nature, I'll take on the role of that person wagging her finger and strongly encourage parents to turn the clock ahead several weeks and act as if it is mid-August. Like so many parents, I hardly can look past tomorrow - let alone a week or even months ahead. I shun the retail ad campaigns that start in early July encouraging me to get school supplies and don't start to think about back-to-school until about two weeks before school starts... and do not start doing anything about it until Labor Day weekend.

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    Hence, I found myself last year, right before the first day of school, scrambling to ensure that I had all of the needed paperwork in regards to my son's school diabetes management and care. Too, I needed to connect with his school medical team and teachers. Lucky for me, much carried over from the previous year little needed to be done, yet while still gritting my teeth from the stress of waiting too long, I vowed not do to it again. Hopefully, by wagging my finger, I will prevent you from making my mistake.

    First, connect with the medical team at school. If you are going to a new school (for example, moving from elementary to middle school), reach out to your new public school nurse now. This will give you more time to know and build a relationship with the nurse and vice versa. You'll know what the nurse has worked with in regards to diabetes students (like her familiarity with pumps or different insulin regiments), what she expects, and how flexible she might be. The same is true also of the other medical staff you and your child will be working with, including the medical technicians who are often the ones who staff the clinics. 

    Next, this is also the time to step back and re-evaluate your child's 504 plan to see if it needs to be changed or altered. You may have encountered some hiccups during the year in application, but haven't taken the time to address this with the administrators of the 504. Consider issues like: Did your child have the needed support when going on a field trip? Did teachers allow your child, if he was able, to test his blood in the classroom? Was your child allowed to snack and test as needed, even during testing situations?

    If you do not have a 504 plan in place,  this would be a great time to get the ball rolling on creating and instituting a plan for your child. These plans ensure that children with diabetes get the support they need to have equal access to educational services like all other students. Do be aware that these plans can take some time to move through the approval process and to include all of the key components that are tailored to your child's needs.

    Another item to revisit is your child's diabetes medical management plan (DMMP), which should be reviewed with your public school nurse and staff. This may or may not include an individualized health plan (IHP). Ask your nurse if there are any new medical forms for next year, or if any of the forms your child currently has in place needs to be updated or altered. 

  • Take this time to reach out to administrators, maybe to further explore and schedule training for teachers and others staff, or to address scheduling needs for your child so that these can be considered when making class placements and scheduling (for example, maybe your child needs to have PhysEd first thing, or lunch as close to noon as possible). It can be easier to address these considerations now, instead of trying to fix them during the first week of school, as this can cause stress for your child. 

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    Lastly, consider other items that may impact your child in the upcoming year, and begin to plan your approach for these now. For example, does he plan on joining a sport of club for the first time? Or will he be responsible for taking a new regiment of testing, like standardized tests, where in the past they've not?  Will your child be changing how he gets to school, like taking the bus for the first time? If so, make plans to delivering your child's diabetes medical management plan to the bus drivers and the person managing the bus routes.

    Now that I've given you a summer homework assignment, I will sheepishly encourage you and your kid(s) to enjoy the summer break, no matter how long it is, and to celebrate the fact that you've made it through the school year.

Published On: June 07, 2010