Heading back to school is an exciting and anxious time for most and no doubt diabetes can add to that anxiety level. Whether your child is very young, newly diagnosed or maybe just heading to a new school this year, the thought of going back to school may have you both on edge.
These back to school reminders and resources should help get everyone ready to head back to school safely so you and your child can focus on important things like remembering locker combinations and deciding what to wear.
Allowing time to plan and organize will go a long way in reducing back to school stress. Tackling these tasks 3-4 weeks before the start of school (now!) will ensure that doctor’s offices and others involved in getting your child ready to start school will have enough time to turn around your requests.
In getting ready for school there are some things that you’ll be required to have by the school and there are some things that will simply make school life less chaotic and reduce anxiety.
The Must Have’s
- Prescription authorization from your physician for each medication your child will have at school (insulin, glucagon, other)
- Supplies for BG monitoring, insulin administration and treatment of hypo/hyperglycemia
Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP)
A DMMP is a written document that provides details about your child’s specific diabetes management plan while at school. This includes information about blood sugar targets and checking times, carb ratios, hypo/hyperglycemia symptoms and treatment etc. Since diabetes management is unique to each person, having this detail will help keep routines between home and school consistent.
Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan
The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act both offer protection the rights of individuals with diabetes. These laws support the right to have access to appropriate education, free from discrimination. IEPs and 504 plans are the tools you use to define your child’s specific needs to ensure that they have access to the support and accommodations needed to safely and effectively participate in all aspects of school. Things covered by an IEP/504 include but are not limited to sports, field trips, academic testing accommodations and access to bathroom, snacks and water.
The American Diabetes Association has a number of very helpful online resources for both parents and school personnel can you can use to help you write your plan and educate school staff.
Don’t Forget Emotional Preparation
Beyond the must have’s, helping your child develop confidence and competence with their diabetes management is also key. While the need for your child to gain independence with his/her diabetes management isn’t specific to going to school, it is often the first place they need to use these skills semi-independently.
Be sure your child has started taking on age appropriate diabetes management tasks at home. The more they are involved in checking blood sugars, counting carbs and participating in decisions about how to treat high or low blood sugars at home, the more they will be able to have a confident voice at school. This is particularly important on days when there is a substitute nurse or teacher.
You can further build your child’s (and your) confidence about managing diabetes at school but addressing emotional issues. The best place to start is often talking with your child about how they feel about going off to school. If they have concerns and are able to share them with you, then you can then help them come up with strategies to handle them.
As unfair as it is for parents, the reality is that children take strong cues from us about attitudes towards life with diabetes. So if you are anxious and stressed about going back to school there’s a good chance your child will be too. So step one is finding an outlet or professional for you to work with to manage and reduce your anxieties. Many areas have parent support groups that meet on a regular basis, which is a great way to feel connected as well as get tips from other veteran T1d parents.
But not all kid concerns come from us. Kids may be worried about other kids watching them check their blood sugar or taking insulin. Ask your child what it is specifically that has them worried. Maybe they are worried kids will tease them or maybe they don’t feel comfortable explaining things to peers. By knowing the root worry, you can offer appropriate strategies.
If it’s teasing – role playing potential situations and helping your child develop responses and plans for how to handle these situations in advance will help them feel more confident that they will be able to handle it if it comes up. Encourage your child to tell you if teasing or bullying happens so that you can step in to escalate the issue as needed. Bullying is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly or left for the kids to “work it out”.
Sometimes, however, it’s not bullying as much as it is that they feel uncomfortable or awkward talking about diabetes with peers. Deciding the best way to address this type of worry depends on your child and their personality. If your child is very shy or private on the topic, you can ask the nurse to give the class a high-level explanation of diabetes and the common care tasks at the beginning of the year – taking the mystery out of it.
Other kids, however, may really enjoy making a special presentation to the class or school on the topic as well as want to find ways to get other students involved. The JDRF has a wonderful program that provides the school with everything needed to host a “Kids Walk to Cure Diabetes”.
With the support of the school, this could be something your child sees as a fun way to get the word out to classmates about what diabetes is all about. Just be sure that it IS something your child wants to do and not something you want them to do. Not everyone will want to take the activist, out spoken approach and forcing it works against the goal of reducing stress.
More Tips & Tricks
- Request a copy of the nutritional information for the food served in the cafeteria from your child’s school Food Services Department
- Write down 3-4 breakfast, lunch and snack options along with the carb counts and dosing. This way when everyone is pressed for time either you or your child will be able to quickly have the information ready to accurately cover meals.
- Have a regular day to restock supplies at school. By setting a specific day to restock, such as the 1st of each month, you can reduce the risk of running out of something and minimize the number of trips to the school to deliver supplies at the last minute.
- Print the calendar of special events and standardized testing so you can be prepared with a plan for extra BG checks or snacks.
- If your child wears an insulin pump also have supplies and instructions at school to convert to injections if needed.
- Ask about the schools lock down drills and policies – remember to keep supplies to treat low blood sugars in these areas as well.
- Remember to include the bus and bus driver in your plans