Your child with type 1 diabetes is headed back to school. This may be your first go-round with going back to school and juggling child diabetes. Or maybe you’re a pro and just need a checklist. Either way, preparation, communication, and education are pivotal to making sure your child is safe and successful at school. Here are 6 important things to do to prepare your type 1 diabetic for school.
1. Talk To Your Child About Child Diabetes
Here is something you may not know: Kids are curious. Just kidding. You know this all too well. Kids are curious and inquisitive about EVERYTHING. And believe it or not, they probably should be. They are constantly learning and developing skills, opinions, and personalities. One thing is certainly going to happen when your child with child diabetes heads back to school: Kids are going to ask a million questions. Especially if they have never seen anyone with child diabetes or if your child is newly diagnosed and has a new routine and supplies. NOTHING gets by these little ones.
The best way to prepare your child for going back to school with child diabetes is to have a discussion with them about how they are feeling and address any concerns they may have. Making your child feel comfortable and maintaining their self-image is of utmost importance. They often don’t want to be different than their peers and may have difficulty accepting their diagnosis as a lifelong condition. Start conversations with any concerns or questions your child may have, how they are feeling about returning to school, how they will explain their diagnosis to others, how to answer other people’s questions, and ensuring them that they will be safe at school.
2. Food Decisions For Child Diabetes
To pack or not to pack: This is one of the questions. While packing your child’s lunch and snack offers complete control over their diet, this may also be an unrealistic goal. Your child may have the option to eat school lunch and you may rely on this if you find yourself running behind and rushing out the door in the morning. Or maybe your child prefers a hot lunch instead of a packed lunch. No worries. Just know that there is a possibility of both happening and you should figure out what to do for each situation. Does the school have a carbohydrate calendar for their lunches? Are you going to count carbohydrates for your child’s packed lunch and include an itemized list in their lunchbox? Or will you rely on the diabetic care provider in the school to count carbohydrates from nutrition labels?
Either way, starting to educate your child about meals including blood glucose monitoring, carbohydrate counting, serving sizes, healthy choices, and Insulin administration should start right away. Be careful to not bombard them with all the information you know or are learning. Baby steps. Start with simple tasks such as tolerating and understanding procedures like finger sticks and Insulin administration. Then you can allow them to steer the boat a little and let you know when they are ready to learn and do more. Encouragement in performing their own observed care will help them become more independent and feel more confident. So, what’s for lunch?
Read More: Teach Your Kids To Snack Healthy
3. Child Diabetes Supply Kit
It’s time to go shopping and get prepared for sending your diabetic child to school. Start off with finding a lunchbox (with a strap to be worn) or a small backpack. Let them pick out a new bag with shiny bells and whistles to make them happy and excited to carry it, even if it is for diabetic supplies. Having a bag that they don’t have to carry with their hands allows your child to have their hands readily available and decreases the likelihood that they will set their kit down and forget it. According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) your child’s diabetes school supplies should include their Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and pump supplies, extra batteries, Glucagon (emergency medication for hypoglycemia), fast-acting carbs (glucose tabs, juice, fruit gummies, candy), supplies to check their blood glucose (alcohol pads, glucometer, glucometer strips, lancets, lancing device, gauze), supplies for insulin administration (alcohol pads, Insulin with syringes or pen, needles), and ketone testing strips. Make it a habit to regularly check this bag for expiration dates and replenish when needed.
4. School Nurse And Health Plans To Assist With Child Diabetes
Once your child is diagnosed with type 1 diabetes you will be referred to an Endocrinologist to receive specialized and individualized care. This care includes nutrition counseling, medication teaching and prescribing, case management, etc. Your child’s Endocrinologist should provide you with your child’s medical plan. This plan needs to be provided to the school nurse to communicate the diagnosis, the medical prescription, and care plan so that the school nurse will be able to make a care plan for the school setting. The school nurse has a pivotal role in ensuring that your child’s medical and health needs are communicated and addressed by the appropriate school staff. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation explains that these health plans are called an IHP (Individualized Health Plan) and EAP (Emergency Action Plan). Don’t lose your mind. These are fancy ways to say this is what will happen if XYZ happens in order to keep your child safe at school.
Read More: Back To School: Meal Planning 101
5. Teacher Conference For Student With Child Diabetes
As plans for how the school staff will manage your child’s diabetes and caregivers are arranged, it will be beneficial for you to meet with the staff that will be involved in their care. You know your child best. Tips, tricks, and other pertinent information should be shared with staff to make your child’s experience at school a positive one. You can also learn what a normal daily routine at school looks like for your child. You should also determine who and how communication will be shared with you when your child needs additional diabetic supplies for the classroom. Having communication with the school staff and school nurse will make your child’s experience a more positive one and their diabetes managed better.
6. 504 Coordinator Meeting About Child Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association states that type 1 diabetic students may require a 504 plan or a set of accommodations needed in order to be able to be successful academically, treated fairly, while also meeting their needs medically. These accommodations are arranged with the 504 coordinator, parents, school nurse, school staff, and administration. This helps make sure that the parents and staff collaborate and communicate the needs of the student. These accommodations often include bathroom privileges, access to food and beverage, along with other considerations according to the American Diabetes Association. Having these accommodations will not only clarify your child’s needs at school but also address situations and circumstances you may have not thought about.
Sending your child with diabetes to school can be very busy and stressful. Committing time for preparation and establishing good communication are going to substantially improve the overall school experience for you and your child. The goal is a healthy, happy child that is self-managed. This goal isn’t achieved overnight, in fact, it may take years. But with your love and support, your child will be ready for school and life.
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