Going back to school is a daunting task at the best of times.
There are new clothes that they will outgrow next month. School supplies will be purchased that will not quite match the requirements of their particular teacher but you won’t know that until after the first day. You will have to pay for three new pairs of running shoes because they can’t wear street shoes in the classroom and they can’t wear classroom shoes in the gym.
Those chores are stressful enough but if you have a child with diabetes, that is only the beginning of the worries. Next is what should I put in their diabetes kit for school? Where will that kit be kept? What sort of information should we provide for the teacher this year? What can I expect the teachers to do? Will they inject my child? Will they monitor his testing? What if she goes low? Will anyone care? How will we cope with the bus? Will they give out treats in school? What will happen when my child is high/low during an exam?
The list of worries for a parent of a child with diabetes going to school goes on and on. I went through these stresses when my son was in preschool until his very last day of high school. It doesn’t get any easier. The worries simply change. In kindergarten you wonder who will help with her testing. In their pre-teen years, you wonder if the teacher will help remind him to test. In their teens, you worry that the teacher will think that she is playing with her phone when she tests.
Despite the fact that the worry is still there, I will tell you that the systems have improved. We now have provinces (see British Columbia, Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador) with some sort of guidelines for dealing with children with diabetes entering their schools. While there is often a need to specialize plans and meet with the school staff for your particular child’s needs, this is a huge leap forward from provinces with no basic guidelines.
In other provinces, where provincial policies have not yet been agreed upon, most boards offer individual policies that range from talking about diabetes as a medical condition in school to dealing with specific diabetes related issues.
For those living in the US, you don’t have to worry about state policies or even specific school board policies. All children with diabetes are covered by the American Disabilities Act and as long as they are in a public school, should have a 504 plan in place dictating their diabetes care.
No matter where you live, it is important that you keep an open and honest dialogue going with your child’s school. The majority of teachers in the education system are there because they truly care for kids. This means that they want to help you in any way that they can. Ensure that you have a meeting with staff to discuss your child’s needs, what you can do to help make things better and the role that you expect educators to play. Remember that they are just people who will also be overwhelmed by diabetes care. Make things as simple as possible and check to see if your area has access to a nurse to assist with younger children’s care.
As your child grows and becomes more independent, it is important for teachers to understand the behaviours of high and low blood glucose levels. You don’t want them suspecting that your child is drunk when they are low. You also don’t want an altercation to take place because they are high.
Going back to school can be overwhelming. Going back to school with a child with diabetes seem worse. Make sure that you…
~set meetings with school staff
~create 504 or individual care plans were available
~leave information for supply teachers
~be available for questions and concerns that will arise during the year
~enjoy another successful year for your child…the time really does go by in a flash!
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