How To Support Your Child At School When They Have Diabetes

Diabetes at school

Back-to-school season can be all about buying new school supplies, meeting new teachers and making new friends. But when your child has diabetes, returning to school raises concerns about keeping them healthy.

The good news is there are ways to stay prepared, keep everyone informed, and make sure your child stays safe and healthy throughout the school year.

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Here are 7 steps to prepare your child for going back to school. You can also download this sheet to print, fill out, and bring to your child’s school.

1. Make sure the school knows about your child’s diabetes before classes start.

Diabetes management requires everyone to be informed. Set up a meeting with that includes:

  • School nurses
  • Teacher(s)
  • Lunchroom employees
  • School principal and administration
  • Bus drivers
  • Playground supervisors
  • Coach for sports
  • Advisory for after-school activities

If your child needs to be excused from school for a diabetes-related illness, a note may only be accepted if the school office is aware of their illness at that time.

2. Provide thorough information about their diabetes.

Many people think of Diabetes Type 2, and your child’s school needs to know that Type 1 is different. By providing information about your child’s diabetes and making it readily accessible, you can be prepared for your child’s time at school.

Information that your child’s school should have includes:

  • Your child’s basic information, such as their birth date, what type of diabetes they have (Type 1 or Type 2), when they were diagnosed, their grade in school, and their homeroom teacher
  • Your contact information, and keep it updated when it changes
  • Contact information of someone else who can care for your child or answer questions if you’re not available, such as another parent or guardian, family member, or close friend
  • Your child’s physician’s information
  • When — and how — to check your child’s blood sugar
  • Your child’s usual symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • How to treat your child’s hypoglycemia (for example, when should they be given a carbohydrate or Glucagon?)
  • Your child’s usual symptoms of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
  • How to treat your child’s hyperglycemia
  • When they should call 9-1-1

Also, provide information about your child’s insulin therapy, including:

  • The name of the insulin they use
  • When they should receive insulin
  • Whether they require adjustable or fixed insulin therapy
  • Information about their adjustable insulin therapy, such as the insulin to carbohydrate ratio and the correction factor, if applicable
  • Information about their fixed insulin therapy, such as how many units of insulin are given before each meal, if applicable

Other information about your child’s diabetes management plan:

  • Your child’s meal plan, such as when they should eat, how many carbohydrates they should have, and when they should have snacks
  • How to prepare for physical activity and sports, such as keeping a fast-acting source of sugar (glucose tabs and/or sugar-containing fluids) available, when to test their blood sugar, and when they should avoid physical activity
  • What other supplies need to be kept at school, such as blood glucose meters, blood glucose test strips, batteries for their meter, Lancet device and accessories, and urine ketone strips

It’s also important to make sure your school knows how much responsibility your child can take for their own diabetes management, including blood sugar checks, insulin injections, and carbohydrate calculations and management.

In order to provide your child’s school with the most up-to-date and thorough information, fill out this Diabetes Medical Management Plan Worksheet to submit to your child’s school each year.

3. Establish responsibilities.

Once everyone is aware that your child has diabetes, the next step is to make sure they know their responsibilities and points of contact.

Your child’s responsibilities may include:

  • Being involved in the school plan
  • Communicating any symptoms or problems to you and school personnel

Your responsibilities may include:

  • Providing a diabetes plan to your child’s school each year and keeping it updated
  • Reviewing basic diabetes treatment guidelines with trained school personnel
  • Providing permission for your child’s school nurse to delegate diabetes care to other trained personnel
  • Investigating school menus and requesting carbohydrate content information
  • Updating school personnel whenever your child’s plan changes
  • Providing diabetes supplies and equipment and being able to provide instructions to school on how to use them
  • Providing emergency contact information, which may include yourself, another parent or guardian, a close relative, or a neighbor
  • Discuss a communication plan with the school on obtaining blood sugar readings & insulin dose records

School personnel responsibilities may include:

  • Requesting a current diabetes plan each school year
  • Keeping treatment guidelines readily accessible
  • Delegating diabetes care to other trained staff as “back-up” support
  • Assisting with detection and treatment of low blood sugar
  • Providing information regarding meals/carb content
  • Requesting you maintain an updated diabetes plan of care
  • Discussing any questions regarding the plan with you or your child’s Diabetes team
  • Notifying you and your child of anticipated activity and schedule changes
  • Remaining familiar with emergency diabetes guidelines
  • Providing ready access to restroom facilities & drinking water

4. Provide supplies.

It is also a good idea to have a consolidated diabetes kit for any other school personnel who may occasionally care for your child, such as PE teachers, coaches, bus drivers, or teachers. This may include:

  • Insulin, syringes or pen needles
  • Glucagon kit
  • Blood sugar meter, strips, & lancets
  • Ketone strips, alcohol wipes
  • Batteries
  • Extra pump supplies (if applicable)
  • Food for snacks
  • Food to treat low blood sugar (juice, tabs)

5. Plan for meals.

Children with diabetes may require a very specific diet. It’s important to decide who will be responsible for the food items placed on your child’s meal tray. Most importantly, you should:

  • Determine the meals given at school by obtaining a school menu
  • Obtain information on the carbohydrate content of foods for the portion sizes served
  • Ask if special food products such as sugar-free: Jell-O, syrup, or jelly are available on request
  • Provide examples of food-substitutes that are allowed if your child is unable to finish their meal for the insulin dose already taken
  • Designate a responsible adult your child can go to if all of their food was not eaten, even if the meal comes from home
  • Remind school personnel that no meal or snack should be omitted or delayed

6. Prepare to prevent complications.

Preparation is essential in managing your child’s diabetes when you’re not there. Basic preparations and precautions can be taken to prevent unnecessary complications, such as:

  • Discussing a method for recording and reporting blood sugar results
  • Expressing importance to your child and all school staff of the importance of early detection and treatment of low blood sugars. Time is critical when blood sugar is low.
  • Making sure liquid or easy to consume carbs are always readily available to your child
  • Reminding school personnel that your child needs to be escorted to the health office if symptoms of low blood sugar occur. They should never be left alone.

7. Plan for any changes.

Changes in your child’s school day may lead to chances for things to go wrong — if you’re not prepared. Plan for these changes ahead of time, and establish open communication with the school so you can be prepared for these situations.

Some examples of situations that may cause a change in your child’s care plan include:

  • Field trips
  • Gym and physical education days
  • Class parties

Do you still have questions about managing your child’s diabetes at school? Contact the diabetes team at Children’s Diabetes Center, Children’s Nebraska at 402-955-3871 for more information about keeping your child safe while they learn.


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