Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
Back to school can be an exciting time, but if your child has diabetes, it can also require some special planning. You need to prepare some supplies for their backpack, and you need to let others know when and how to use these supplies should it be necessary. Communication is key, so let's talk about what that may look like.
Remember: diabetes is nothing to be ashamed of or hidden. In fact, the more people know about your child's diabetes, the safer they will be.
The first step is to meet with school personnel involved in teaching your child. Try to make certain that gym teachers are included and even the school principal. The child can be present at the meeting. It should be informal and questions should be freely asked by all parties to clear up any misconceptions or concerns that may arise.
What should be covered in the meeting
- What types of medications are being taken? This includes insulin as well as any oral medications.
- How often and when will blood sugars be checked? Who will be responsible for this? (Nurse, child, dedicated trained school personnel, etc.) Who will interpret these blood sugars? (What happens in gym class, for example?)
- What to do in the case of hypoglycemia. What are the symptoms and how should it be treated?
- When should you contact medical help?
- What provisions need to apply when tests are being taken (snacks, etc.)?
- When is insulin given and again, who will be responsible to administer it?
- How should classmates be educated?
- How should needles be properly disposed?
- Emergency contact numbers, including that of the doctor, should be provided.
- Birthday parties and holiday parties on school property should be discussed and provisions made if possible (e.g., diet soft drinks instead of candy or other treats).
A new teacher or school can be scary for any student. It is especially important for you and your child to be proactive rather than reactive. The more secure a child is about themselves and their diabetes, the better he or she will be able to handle it at school and elsewhere.
Some personal experience
My sons talked to classmates themselves about diabetes. One of my sons did a presentation in a health class about diabetes, and everyone loved it. This may also open the door to students willing to talk about other diseases that may affect them that they were previously uncomfortable talking about.
Most schools are extremely willing to work with any students with health concerns. Remember, it decreases the school’s liability if they are educated and engaged in the well-being of their students because a medical emergency can be handled with greater ease and confidence.
Good luck and stay well!