Ensuring a successful school year for children with diabetes

Lurie Children’s Hospital shared with the Daily Herald Newspaper that the school year is a busy and sometimes stressful time for many families. It is especially stressful for the 176,500 people under the age of 20 who have type 1 diabetes, and the growing number of youth with type 2 diabetes.

Extra planning and unique worries are a big part of hitting the books again.

So, Shirley Goodman, RN, CDE, Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., CDE, and Dr. Naomi Fogel, MD, from Lurie Children’s Division of Endocrinology, are sharing tips to ensure a successful and safe school year for children living with diabetes.

Cast a wide communication net

Parents need to reach out and cast a communication net when deciding whom to communicate with at school.

It’s important to think about not only specific teachers, school nurses, or specific administrators, but all the other people who will touch a child’s life throughout their school day. For example, the bus driver, cafeteria workers, coaches, front-office staff, art teacher, and after-school volunteers.

Do not be shy when it comes to advocating for your child. Sometimes it even helps to spend a day at the school observing where your child goes and which adults they seem to be interacting with the most so you can partner with the school in developing a safe plan of care.

Balance food, exercise, and insulin

As parents educate themselves and others about diabetes, it is essential to leverage three elements for their child’s health with type 1 diabetes: food, exercise, and insulin.

Plans should be made for balancing these three aspects of your child’s day.

Lurie Children’s offers Diabetes Medical Management Plans for school. These plans include orders for medication and testing, authorize the school personnel to care for your child, and addresses issues like bathroom breaks, access to water and accommodations around exams and quizzes in the event of out-of-range glucose levels.

Children should also have a 504 plan to spell out exactly how the DMMP will be followed and how the child will avoid diabetes-related discrimination while at school.

Keep your child involved

Depending on the age and how long a child has had diabetes, children are generally happier and healthier the more they are involved with diabetes care.

It is key to engage your child in the school plan and let them help choose when and how fellow students learn about diabetes.

A child may wish to do a presentation or have a parent come to read a story about diabetes. A teen may wish to write an email to send to teachers themselves or may prefer that the parent or school nurse is responsible for alerting staff.

Children with diabetes should also help decide aspects of when and how their care will happen at school.

For example, many children go to a nurse’s office to check blood sugars prior to lunch. For some children, they do not want to leave their classroom early to get to the nurse. For others, the worst thing you can do is have them show up to the lunchroom late. Ask your child about the timing of the nurse visit and partner with the school staff to develop a plan that works well for your child.

Remember that while the child can help in the care, diabetes is not a do-it-yourself disease, so the adults at school need to remain involved.

Lurie Children’s diabetes team is always available to help navigate the unique school needs of children with diabetes and help ensure a safe and productive school year.

In addition, the American Diabetes Association also presents workshops for school preparation. Visit their website at www.diabetes.org and search for “Safe at School” to find more information, including sample 504 plans, diabetes management plans, and a review of the legal protection for children with diabetes in each state.

Ranked among the top in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for diabetes and endocrinology, Lurie Children’s is the only hospital in Illinois that is included in the honor roll of Best Children’s Hospitals.

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