As much as a parent with a diabetic child would sometimes like, you cannot be with your child 24 hours a day to protect them. Entrusting their school to protect them is simply part of the process of living with diabetes. Working with the school to develop a care plan is the first step in ensuring your child’s safety.
This article mainly discusses this process in relation to type 1 diabetes in school, as this type is the most common in children. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation has excellent resource for parents dealing with this issue. The JDRF lists four key components:
Be Prepared. Once you know your child has diabetes, you need to start learning about your rights before you set a meeting with the school. You also need to know what you want from the school before the meeting. The goal of the meeting is to establish a Care Plan for your child. How will your child be cared for on a day to day basis, what happens in an emergency, and how are staff, teachers and other children going to be educated and trained.
Most schools will be familiar with type 1 diabetes and be looking to help. Nonetheless, you do have rights in case you receive some push back from the school. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers all schools receiving federal funds. Section 504 of the Act provides for a Care Plan (often referred to as a 504 Plan), for children who have a disability (diabetes included). It is an agreement between the school and the parent that establishes guidelines for treating your child’s disability.
If your school does not receive federal funds, don’t worry there are similar protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Thus, you are well within your rights to establish a workable plan with the school. In case your school is having trouble adjusting, the JDRF publishes an 88 page guide for schools. You may want to read this and bring it with you to the meeting.
Meeting. You should meet with the school. The meeting(s) should be with the principal, any teachers of your child, the school nurse, cafeteria manager, physical education teacher and any coaches or extracurricular activity teachers. Your child can certainly be at the meeting.
Strategy. Agree on a strategy with the school, including emergency communication and training guidelines. Many parents also provide certain resources to the school. For example, snack packs which have pre-measured snacks. Supply packs which have glucagon, syringes, glucose monitors, etc. (anything your child may need).
Don’t forget substitute teachers. Some parents advocate having a paper with your child’s picture and emergency instructions at the teacher’s desk, in case a substitute is there. A presentation to your child’s classmates may also be appropriate. Learning about diabetes in school is a great way to introduce the subject.
Follow – Up. Make sure you follow up with the school and teachers on an ongoing basis. Good communication is critical. You want to make sure they are aware of any changes in your child’s health and that your child’s health is first in mind.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, JDRF.org, Type 1 Diabetes in School (Accessed January 2009).
By Erich Schultz – Last Reviewed February 2012.