The first day of a new school year is always an exciting time – returning friends, new teachers and back-to-school shopping! But along with the excitement, feelings of stress and apprehension also creep in. This is especially true for parents and caregivers of children living with type 1 diabetes (T1D) as they prepare for another school year.
As a parent, you know that your child spends most of their day in the school setting, in the care of teachers, nurses and other school personnel. As a parent of a child with T1D, you also know the day-to-day disease management is intensive and that the school must play an important role in this care. It’s important to establish a united partnership with your child’s schools in order to create a supportive environment in which they can learn and thrive. To make the transition back to school easier, there are a few things that you can do:
Make a Plan: Work with your child and their healthcare providers to develop a diabetes management plan that includes written instructions for testing and insulin dosing, plans for high and low blood sugars, as well as what constitutes “too” high or low and warrants a phone call for further discussion. This plan can also include a buddy system protocol outlining that your student should be accompanied by a peer whenever necessary. Example: A student with a low blood sugar should never walk to the nurse’s office alone.
Schedule a Meeting: Before the official first day back, schedule a time to meet with your student’s school-based care team and go over your diabetes management plan. This can include the school nurse or health aid, primary teachers, principal, counselor, etc. The parents’, student’s and school’s needs must be communicated, heard and understood.
Complete Required Paperwork: Make sure all relevant health paperwork is filled out as soon as possible and completed at the start of each school year. These forms provide instructions and permissions for the school to follow and relevant contact information all in one place.
Develop a 504 Plan: An important part of building a good working relationship with your child’s school is a discussion regarding their legal rights. Under federal law, diabetes is considered a disability, and schools are required to accommodate any special needs your child has to ensure their educational success. A 504 Plan is an individualized plan unique to your student that officially outlines what they will need to thrive in school including medical safety, equal access and needed accommodations.
Remember, you are all in this together! Your child’s school wants your student to be as successful as you do and in most cases, has previously enrolled students living with T1D. Through open communication and a collaborative partnership between parents, students and the designated in-school care team, you can easily work to ensure the best possible school experience for your child!