Diabetes and Your School-Aged Child

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Lunch for child with diabetes

If you’re a parent of a child with diabetes, you want to be assured that your child’s school is able to assist him or her with checking blood sugar levels, administering insulin, or managing an emergency. While older children might be able to handle these things themselves, younger children may need an adult (teacher, camp counselor, friends’ parent, grandparent, etc.) to help.

As much as you might want to, you can’t possibly be with your child all the time, so you need to have a plan in place so that other adults can step in when needed.

Talking with the school about diabetes
Whether your child is newly diagnosed, switching schools, or is beginning a new school year, it’s a good idea to arrange a meeting with the teacher, nurse, and possibly even the principal to discuss your child’s diabetes management plan. Multiple copies of the plan should be available and accessible in case of an emergency. This means keeping one in your child’s backpack and classroom. As well, the school should know what constitutes an emergency for someone with diabetes and who to call if it happens.

Let the nurse and teacher know what your child’s day looks like with respect to diabetes – if he or she requires an extra snack, should eat at specific times, should test blood sugar levels, and receive injections. The teacher (not just the nurse) should be aware of these considerations so that he or she can allow time during the day for your child to take care of these needs. Although no one wants to single out a child for any medical reason, the most important thing is your child’s health. While some teachers may not allow snacks in the classroom, they may need to make an exception. A note to that effect should be on file so that any substitutes, teacher aides, or other adults are aware.

Generally, students are not permitted to carry needles or medication with them at school. These supplies will be stored in the nurse’s office and your child will need to visit the nurse to check blood sugar levels or receive injections during the day. If your child is old enough to check his or her own blood sugar, ask the nurse to show the child where the supplies are kept and provide a procedure so that the child can tend to his or her needs. This way, if the nurse is busy or unavailable, your child can manage on his or her own and promptly return to class.

The school should be responsible for ensuring the following:

  1. An adult and back-up adult will be trained to test blood sugar and ketones and know what to do if either level is not within range.
  2. An adult and back-up adult will be able to recognize hypo- and hyperglycemia and know how to treat it. Even if your child is old enough to handle this, he or she should be with an adult at all times during a reaction.
  3. An adult and back-up adult will be able to give insulin injections if necessary. If your child routinely administers his or her own injections, a trained adult should supervise.
  4. An adult and back-up adult will be trained to administer a glucagon injection.
  5. Your child will be provided with a private area where he or she can check blood sugar and take insulin (with an adult present).

The National Diabetes Education Program offers detailed resources that can be shared with school administrators.

Helping your child handle interactions with other children
Some kids can be unkind when they think that another child is even slightly different. Whether or not you share that your child has diabetes with friends is a decision only you and your child can make. If your child is being teased or bullied, contact the school immediately to let them know your concerns.

Regardless of other kids’ reactions, it’s important that your child understands that he or she shouldn’t try to hide the condition by skipping injections, not eating at the correct time, or eating the wrong foods. If you find out that this is happening, talk with your child and the school to make sure that he or she is handling his or her diabetes correctly.

As children get older, they will want to participate in more social activities with their friends. For a child with diabetes, sleepovers and parties can turn uncomfortable if not handled appropriately. Your child should understand that having diabetes should not restrict him or her from attending parties or other events. Talk with your child ahead of time about what kinds of food to choose and even pack a “care package” of healthy snacks that are still treats. As well, talk with the parents when the party is at a friend’s home and be sure that they know how to keep an eye on things.

The teen years
As your child grows into a teenager, the temptations and risks associated with diabetes will change. Alcohol and drugs can have immediate effects on blood sugar. They can also affect a person’s ability to recognize low blood glucose and properly treat it. Help your child understand that while no teen should drink, do drugs, or smoke, the risks as a person with diabetes are higher.

Your teen should also be encouraged to wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace that alerts others of his or her condition.

Be a good communicator
Perhaps the most important thing for managing your child’s diabetes when he or she is away from home is communicating your concerns and your child’s needs to other adults, as well as your child. Let your child know that if anything happens, you’re only a phone call away. Empower him or her to tell the adult in charge and to call his or her doctor or diabetes counselor.

CDPHP® can help
For more information on living with and managing diabetes, check out our Diabetes Management site. CDPHP members can also speak with a trained member of the CDPHP Care Team, as well as take advantage of free wellness classes specially geared toward people with diabetes.

 

References: American Diabetes Association, stopbullying.gov

Photo by usdagov / CC BY

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