Schools might be prepared to deal with kids with diabetes, but parents also should be part of the process. This usually 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. You'll also need to prepare your child to manage diabetes away from home.
It may sound complicated, but your child's diabetes health care team can help. And school administrators and nurses often have experience in helping kids with diabetes participate safely and successfully at school.
Most of the things you need to care for your child at home are needed at school, including a specific diabetes management plan, diabetes medications, and testing supplies.
At school, kids might need to:
Diabetes management materials that need to go to school might include:
You might arrange these items into packages for teachers, the school nurse, coaches, your child, and others.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends giving the school a packet with general diabetes information, including how to recognize and treat hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, in addition to the management plan. Also include emergency contact information for you and other caregivers, your child's doctor, and other members of the diabetes health care team.
The school staff should be made aware of your child's diagnosis and current health status. It's also good to clarify:
To keep the school staff informed, consider reviewing your child's diabetes management plan with the school annually — or whenever it is updated or changed.
You might also want to meet with school staff, such as the principal, your child's teachers (including the gym teacher), the school nurse, and any coaches. They will tell you if they need anything else from you. Be sure to ask about their experience and preparedness for dealing with diabetes. Ask questions and let them know if you feel they need to learn more. For example, a staff member who seems unfamiliar with diabetes or is anxious about dealing with it 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.
Certain laws protect the rights of students with diabetes. Under these laws, diabetes is considered a disability, so it is illegal for schools or childcare centers to discriminate against kids who have it.
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. Teachers and school nurses assess kids individually to determine the best ways to ensure their education while managing the diabetes. The school may be required to create a legal document called a 504 plan that describes how it will meet a child's needs. You might also get an 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 helps prevent kids from feeling different from their 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. 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 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 meet a student's special needs, school officials and the diabetes health care team might need to share medical information.
Ask the diabetes health care team and school officials if they will share information and how to ensure your child's privacy. Your doctor and the school might need written permission from you to exchange this information. This is important because if a problem happens, the school staff may need to get information about your child's health quickly.
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. Kids should understand how to monitor and treat the disease at a level appropriate to their age and development.
Kids need close supervision at school, but they also need to feel that they fit in with their peers. By preparing both the school and your child, you can ease your fears and help your child feel confident.
While at school, kids with diabetes should:
Tell your child to inform you about any issues related to diabetes management at school, and be sure you regularly ask how things are going.
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.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2013
|National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases This group conducts and supports research on many serious diseases affecting public health.|
|American Diabetes Association (ADA) The ADA website includes news, information, tips, and recipes for people with diabetes.|
|Children With Diabetes This website offers true stories about kids and teens who have diabetes.|
|Joslin Diabetes Center The website of this Boston-based center has information about how to monitor blood sugar and manage diabetes.|
|Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International (JDRF) JDRF's mission is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research.|
|504 Education Plans If your child has special needs in the classroom, he or she may be eligible for a government-supported learning plan.|
|Medicines for Diabetes Whether your child is taking insulin or pills (or both) to control diabetes, it's important to learn how diabetes medicines work.|
|Diabetes Control: Why It's Important People who have diabetes may hear or read a lot about controlling, or managing, the condition. But what is diabetes control and why is it so important?|
|Your Child's Diabetes Health Care Team When you have a child with diabetes, you and your family have a lot to learn, but you don't have to go it alone. Your child's diabetes health care team can help.|
|Diabetes: What's True and False? There's a lot of info and advice out there about diabetes, but some is wrong or bad. Here's what's true - and what's false.|
|Diabetes: When to Call the Doctor Taking care of your diabetes includes knowing when to call a doctor and get medical help.|
|Diabetes Center Does your child have type 1 or type 2 diabetes? Learn how to manage the disease and keep your child healthy.|
|Diabetes Center Our Diabetes Center provides information and advice for teens about treating and living with diabetes.|
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|School and Diabetes Are you on your own at school when you're dealing with diabetes? Not at all. Your teachers, coaches, school nurse - and even your friends - can help you out.|
|Carbohydrates and Diabetes If you have diabetes, you might think you shouldn't eat carbohydrates (carbs) at all. But all kids, including kids with diabetes, can and should eat carbs as part of a healthy diet.|
|Your Diabetes Health Care Team It takes all of your team members - you, your parents, doctors, certified diabetes educators, dietitians, and mental health pros - to help you take care of your diabetes.|
|Handling Diabetes When You're Sick Being sick can increase or decrease your blood sugar level if you have diabetes. Find out more about dealing with sick days in this article for kids.|
|Managing Your Child's Diabetes on Sick Days Parents of kids with diabetes need to take a few extra precautions for keeping blood sugar levels under control on sick days.|
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|Handling Diabetes When You're Sick Being sick is no fun for anyone. For people with diabetes, being sick can also affect blood sugar levels.|
|Diabetes Control: Why It's Important Keeping blood sugar levels under control can help keep you healthy and prevent health problems from happening down the road. Find out more.|
|Diabetes: Dealing With Feelings If your child has diabetes, you may spend a lot of time thinking about the physical effects. But it's also important to understand the emotional issues surrounding a diabetes diagnosis.|
|Your Diabetes Health Care Team When you have diabetes, you and your family have a lot to learn. The good news is that people you can count on will help you understand diabetes and how to stay healthy.|
|Meal Plans and Diabetes People with diabetes don't need to be on strict diets, but do need to pay attention to what they eat and when. Crack open the cookbooks and surf to your favorite recipe website because it's time to plan meals that you love!|
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