Your child's school may be prepared to deal with children
with diabetes, but it is important for you to do your research and
be involved in the process. That typically means gathering the
information that the school needs, making sure that it gets to the
right people, and meeting with school officials to discuss their
plans for accommodating your child. You'll also need to prepare
your child to manage diabetes away from home.
It may sound complicated, but members of your child's
diabetes health care team
can help. In addition, school administrators and nurses often have
experience in getting kids with diabetes ready to participate
safely and successfully at school.
Working With Your Child's School
Most of the things you need to care for your child at home are
needed at school, including your child's specific diabetes
management plan, diabetes medications, and testing supplies. At
school, your child might need to:
- check his or her
blood sugar levels
or other diabetes medications
- eat snacks when necessary
at a certain time and have plenty of time to finish the meal
- have easy access to water and time to take bathroom
and participate in school events like field trips
- recognize and get treatment for low blood sugar episodes
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that you give
the school a packet with general diabetes information, including
how to recognize and treat
. The ADA also recommends that you supply a copy of your
child's diabetes management plan. This plan tells school staff
what to do and who to contact if a problem happens. It also should
include your emergency contact information, contact information for
your child's doctor, and phone numbers for other members of the
diabetes health care team in case there is a question or
Communicating With Educators
The school staff should be made aware of your child's
diagnosis and current health status. It's also good to
- your responsibilities
- the school's responsibilities
- any accommodations that the school may need to make
To keep the school staff informed about your child's
condition, it's a good idea to review your child's diabetes
management plan with your child's school annually - or whenever
it is updated or changed.
You may also meet with staff at the school, such as the
principal, your child's teachers (including the gym teacher),
the school nurse, and any coaches your child may have. They will
tell you if they need anything else from you. In addition, you
should ask about their experience and preparedness for dealing with
diabetes. Feel free to ask questions. Let them know if you feel
they need to learn more. For example, if a staff member seems
unfamiliar with diabetes or is anxious about dealing with it, he or
she might be too restrictive or make kids with diabetes feel
different. You want to build an open exchange with the staff and
meet or talk with them regularly to ensure a healthy educational
environment for your child.
Your child's diabetes management materials need to go to
school as well, including:
- testing supplies
- a medical identification bracelet or necklace
- any other things that your child's doctor recommends
You might arrange these items into packages for teachers, the
school nurse, coaches, your child, and others.
Diabetes, School, and the Law
There are certain laws designed to protect the rights of
children with diabetes who attend school. Under these laws,
diabetes is considered a disability. That means it's illegal
for schools or child-care centers to discriminate against children
In addition, any school that receives federal funding or any
facility considered open to the public must reasonably accommodate
the special needs of children with diabetes. In your child's
school, this means that teachers and the school nurse (if there is
one at your child's school) will assess your child individually
to determine the best ways to ensure that your receives appropriate
education in the context of his or her diabetes. The school may be
required to create a legal document called a 504 plan that
describes how it will meet your child's needs. You also may get
individualized education plan
(IEP) for your child that outlines educational goals and how the
school will achieve them.
The school needs to meet your child's needs within the usual
school or classroom setting with as little disruption as possible.
This will help prevent your child from feeling different from his
or her peers. The school also must accommodate your child's
needs during activities outside the classroom, such as sports teams
or extracurricular clubs.
Some schools have all the staff that's needed to ensure
proper care for kids with diabetes, but others might not have the
necessary skilled or trainable personnel. For example, many schools
share a nurse with other schools in the district, rather than
having one available all the time. Be sure that your child's
school addresses how the staff will meet your child's needs in
the classroom and during activities such as field trips.
Finally, your child (and everyone else) has a right to private
health information, according to the Health Insurance Portability
and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). But to accommodate your
child's special needs at school, school officials and members
of your child's diabetes health care team may need to share
medical information. Ask your child's diabetes health care team
and school officials about how they will share information and
discuss how they will ensure your child's privacy. Your
child's doctor and the school may need written permission from
you to exchange medical information about your child. This is
important because if a problem happens, the school staff may need
to get information about your child's health quickly.
Preparing Your Child
At first, parents often feel nervous about sending a child with
diabetes off to school. It's important to educate kids about
diabetes without passing along feelings of fear or nervousness.
Your child should understand how to monitor and treat the disease
at a level that's appropriate to his or her age and
development. Kids need close supervision at school, but they also
need to feel safe and that they fit in with their peers. By
preparing both the school and your child, you can allay some of
your fears and help your child feel confident.
Your child's doctor can offer advice to help your child
handle diabetes away from home. Here are a few tips:
- Be sure your child knows whom to contact for help, such as a
teacher, nurse, or coach.
- Teach your child how to handle lunchtime and other eating
situations without your supervision.
- Pack your child's backpack with all the supplies and
snacks needed to manage diabetes easily.
- Instruct your child to tell you about any issues related to
diabetes management at school. Be sure to ask how things are
Organizing your child and the school seems like a big project at
first, but your child's doctor and school staff are there to
help. Good preparation not only ensures that your child will have
healthy school days, but can help you and your child feel more
confident about going to school.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: September 2007
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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