Kids with diabetes have an even longer list of school supplies and tasks. Planning for diabetes management at school can be daunting, but there is plenty of advice available. The American Diabetes Association's Safe at School program (diabetes.org/safeatschool) is an excellent resource of information for parents and kids. Parents and administrators need to be aware of the legal responsibilities in caring for students with diabetes, and it's important to prepare the child, also.
As kids grow older, they should take increasing responsibility for their own diabetes management, so include them in the planning process and ask them what their thoughts are. Children who take an active role in their own care tend to do best in managing their diabetes. At the same time, it can be tiring to them. Parents need to stay involved and make sure there is at least one adult within the school environment (i.e. nurse, teacher) who can be called on in an emergency. It's a good idea to review your child's blood glucose target ranges with your physician and the school's staff so that they know when to intervene or alert you. You may also want to chat with the dietitian about healthy snacks or the best treatments for low blood sugar, or talk with the school nurse about whether your child is ready for unsupervised pump boluses. The Diabetes Medical Management Plan (a Section 504 Plan) and other care plans should be filed several weeks before the school year begins.
The greatest tool a child can have at school and even later in life is being able to speak up for themselves. Though friends and the school's staff are able to read the warning signs of high or low blood sugar, the youngest of children can learn to recognize these signs in themselves and alert others when necessary. High school age children should be able to take on the responsiblities of implementing the 504 Plans as well as carrying a cell phone to report their highs and lows to their care team.
The ADA's Safe at School campaign provides materials parents can use to educate schools about the laws and how to form a good working relationship with teachers and other staff members. Children should not have to miss-out on field trips, parties, and sporting events because of their diabetes or of their school official's lack of care know-how. It is illegal for a school to exclude a child with diabetes from such an event because a parent is unable to accompany them.
Probably the most important back-to-school task is talking with your child. Find out just what they are ready to take on by themselves and what they will need your help with. The more awareness created for those concerned, the better the school year will proceed.