The first day of the school year can be scary for any student and parent. Sending a child with type 1 diabetes to school can fill parents and students with anxiety the first couple of days. There are some steps you can take to start the school year off in the right direction, some laws that protect your child, and some resources to help everyone keep your child safe and healthy while at school.
Have your required forms complete and signed by your child’s healthcare professional. A Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) outlines your child’s diabetes management throughout the school day. It is the doctor’s orders which are to be carried out by the school nurse or coordinator of care.
Initiate a 504 plan. A 504 is a legal document specifying what “reasonable” modifications and accommodations the school must provide for a student with a disability. (Note on standardized testing: Under the 504 law, school students with diabetes can receive special accommodations when taking standardized testing. These accommodations usually include “stop the clock” breaks for blood glucose testing, insulin administration, bathroom visits, or taking emergency glucose to treat a low blood sugar.)
Know your rights: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Americans with Disabilities Act, Amendments Act both prohibit discrimination on basis of disability. Section 504 pertains to all public schools and private schools that receive federal financial assistance. This act prohibits programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from discriminating against anyone with a disability. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, Amendments Act the school is required to make reasonable modifications to policies, procedures and practices to avoid discrimination and to afford equal opportunity unless doing so would impose undue burden.
Create a emergency care form. Make copies of this form for each of your child’s teachers (don’t forget the bus driver, lunch staff, and computer teacher). Have a photo of your child along with his/her reactions to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (highs) and how to treat. Click here for a sample.
Have low kits in each of your child’s classrooms (again, don’t forget about those who care for your child before and after school). A box or bag with a juice, gel, 15g snack, and tabs can be helpful when your child is low. Also include a reference sheet reminding what needs to be done along with emergency phone numbers. If your child is older consider asking that he/she be allowed to carry their low kits with them throughout the day.
Create a team approach. Where possible create a partnership between you, your child and the school in the management of your child’s diabetes. While most people know about diabetes, much of their knowledge is regarding type 2 diabetes. Knowledge is key to taking care of a child with type 1 diabetes. The more everyone knows, the better everyone will feel regarding the in-school management of the disease. Remember to create clear understanding of who is responsible for each task.
School Advisory Toolkit for Families. This guide prepared by JDRF offers collaborative methods for educators and parents of children with diabetes to ensure that every child enjoys the best possible school experience.
Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A guide for school personnel. This comprehensive resource guide provided by NIH (National Institute of Health) helps students with diabetes, their health care team, school staff, and parents work together to provide optimal diabetes management in the school setting.
Safe at School. The Safe at School Campaign provided by the ADA helps families of children with diabetes overcome barriers at school and ensure a safe learning environment.
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