Every parent worries about sending their child away to school. Are they going to make friends? Will they do well in their studies? Will they miss us? But for parents of children with Type 1 Diabetes, that worry is magnified. What will they do if they forget to take their insulin? Will they be excluded because of their dietary restrictions? Will school administrators know how to spot and handle a hypo?
Managing diabetes in kids can be a challenge, and even more challenging when it’s a young child who isn’t old enough to take care of themselves and articulate when they feel like their blood sugar is low.
There are, however, steps you can take to ensure that your child, their teachers, and school administrators are in the best position to care for your young one while you’re not around.
Before we jump right in, there’s an excellent webinar from the American Diabetes Association that talks about preparing to send your kids back to school, armed with diabetes management strategies here. Also, Diabetes UK has an entire section of their website devoted to managing diabetes in a school setting. Now on to the good stuff.
1. Set Up In-Person Meetings
This can’t be stressed enough. We’ll talk a little further down about putting together detailed instructions, testing schedules, and contingency plans in place for teachers. But first, it’s important to schedule a one-on-one meeting with the person or persons who will be administering or overseeing your child’s blood glucose testing and insulin dosage.
There are a couple of obvious benefits to this; the first being that it gives you a chance to educate teachers and administrators on diabetes (a lot of people aren’t fully aware of how Type 1 diabetes works), why it’s important to stay on top of testing and dosing schedules, and answer any specific questions the teacher might have. It will also give you a chance to demonstrate how to use a blood glucose meter, insulin pen, or insulin pump. Additionally, it’s important to begin to build a relationship and trust with your child’s caregiver, and that’s much easier to do in person.
2. Create a Diabetes Management Plan
Since many teachers don’t have specific training in diabetes care, it’s important to have a very detailed management or care plan that outlines your child’s testing procedures, methodology for counting carbs and figuring out insulin dosage, step-by-step instructions for administering blood glucose testing and insulin injections, a detailed schedule or guidelines for testing and dosing times, emergency symptoms to be aware of, and emergency guidelines should something go wrong. This may seem like overkill, but it’s not. Having these things written down and within easy access to each teacher your child has can be a lifesaver, and is just generally good to have nearby.
Our friends at A Sweet Life have put together an incredibly comprehensive diabetes management plan for their 5 year old son, which provides a great outline to other parents needing some guidance on what this document should cover.
3. Create a Meal Plan
If your child is planning to eat meals at school, designing a meal plan with your child’s teachers or school administrators is going to be an integral part of preparing for the school year. This can be worked into the diabetes management plan, especially when coordinating times for snacks in between meals and meals that take place outside the school (for instance, on a school sponsored field trip).
4. Assemble a Care Kit (and Make Sure Administrators Know How to Use It)
Similar to the way you’d put together a diabetes travel kit, it’s a good idea to have a school care kit to make testing and dosing as simple as possible. This is something that can be left with the teachers or administrators to make sure it’s not forgotten or left behind. Included should be a blood glucose meter, testing strips, lancets, batteries, medical gloves, antiseptic wipes, insulin injection supplies, glucose tablets (or other types of fast-acting glucose snacks), a glucagon emergency kit, and an extra copy of your child’s diabetes management plan – just to be safe.
Important to note: You should always have a discussion with teachers and school administrators about glucagon and how to use it in an emergency. Ideally, someone at the school should be instructed on how to administer a glucagon shot.
Sending your child off to school and trusting their teachers to manage their diabetes care routine can certainly be a nerve wracking experience, especially if it’s their first year away. But, with the right type of planning and lots of open communication, you can help your child’s caregivers successfully manage that responsibility, while letting your child focus on learning.