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Dealing with Type One Diabetes and balancing a happy and balanced school life is difficult, as a student or a parent of a student. It takes patience, communication, and a whole lot of juice boxes.
4 Steps of Managing Diabetes and Education
Dear Parents/Students... get ready. Whether you/ your child is just starting out, or about to graduate, there is always new information to learn about how to handle T1D in schools. I have come up with four key points and steps to make sure you or your child has the least amount of diabetes complications possible.
Step One: Let 'em know!
So, this is probably the most important step to follow. Most schools, if not all, require some form of documentation that you or your child has T1D. Medical records, and/or communication directly from your doctor to the school nurse must be a part of the 'beginning of the year' prep. Each school district is different, so be sure to communicate with your child/your child's school to find out exactly how it's done there. In my experience, my doctor faxed my orders (How much insulin I take, when I take it, sliding scale, blah blah blah) directly to my nurse, with his signature at the bottom. There was also phone numbers for his office for emergencies.
In addition to letting the nurse know, EVERY teacher that you or your child will be learning from needs to know. This event doesn't have to be a big ordeal at all, a simple "Hey just so you know, I have diabetes" is totally fine. I think you will be surprised how willing teachers are to help in any way they can. I once had a teacher bring a gallon of orange juice to keep in her room for me, should I ever go low in her class.
When these teachers are aware of your diabetes, they are more understanding of needing to leave the room, frequent bathroom breaks, and are more willing to help if diabetes gets in the way of a test or assignment. Have a good way of communicating directly to the teacher in order to get any work you may miss on sick days, or if you need to extend the due date of an assignment.
Step Two: Whose job is it?
This next step applies more to the parents of T1D students on the younger side. What jobs in taking care of your child's diabetes belongs to you, your child, and the school nurse?
At home, you may be completely used to taking care of your child's bolusing and basal rates (if on an insulin pump), however, unless you plan on following your kid to school and sitting in the back of class, that has to change. Talk to your child and to the school nurse. If your child knows how to responsibly bolus for themselves, make it their job. However, if you have a younger student who is unable to give themselves insulin, that now becomes the nurse's job. Communication is key. Have that nurse's number on speed dial, and don't be afraid to text whenever needed.
How is your child going to monitor blood sugar levels? If your child pricks and checks their blood multiple times a day, decide (with your child) if this will be done under the desk in class, or sitting next to the nurse. If your child wears a CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitor) like Dexcom or Libre, decide who all will receive that data. I was diagnosed at the end of my fifth grade year, so I was able to take care of my glucose levels myself. If your child is younger, share this data with the nurse. They will see that your child is too low, or too high and take the actions needed to get them back into range.
Step Three: No such thing as over-packing.
Over-packing does not exist within the type one diabetes community. The old expression "Better safe than sorry" is more like "Better safe than sick" for us diabetics. Running out of ANY KIND of supplies can be a problem. There are a few things that should be kept in the nurse's office, and some things that should be kept in a backpack, purse, or anything that STAYS by you or your child's side at all times.
- Low Blood Sugar Snacks (Juice, Fruit snacks, Glucose tablets, Candy, etc)
- Glucose meter and kit: If your child uses one, a glucose checking kit needs to stay close at all times.
- Extra meter batteries: Whether that be for the pump or blood sugar checking kit, never find yourself without power.
- Everyday Insulin Pens/Needles/Pump supplies: this is a given.
In the Nurse's Office:
- Extra Vile of Insulin
- Extra CGM supplies
- Extra pump/insertion kit
- Glucagon injection/Emergency Pen.
- Ketone Strips
- List of Emergency Contacts.
Step Four: Stay Calm, It will be okay.
As simple as it sounds. Communicate with your nurse, teachers, child/parents. Keep others in the loop. It will all work out just fine.