Back to school for children with diabetes

Children with diabetes have special concerns that need to be taken into account when planning for the beginning of the new school year.

The beginning of a new school year is always an exciting time for children. Who will be my teacher? Will I go to the same school? Will I know anyone in my class? For children with special health care needs, such as children with diabetes there will be additional concerns. Will my teacher know what to do if I have a low blood sugar episode? Will I get to eat birthday treats? Can I go on field trips?

If your child has diabetes, here are some tips from Michigan State University Extension diabetes experts to start the school year well prepared:

  • If this is your first year in the school system, call the administration office ahead of time and make an appointment to discuss your child’s health care needs including medication, meals and snacks and what to do in case of an emergency.
  • Ask for the school’s policy handbook for children with special health care needs such as diabetes. This handbook can reassure you that the school is well equipped to handle emergencies or demonstrate that they are not. Ask for a written care plan for your child.
  • Meet with your child’s teacher and discuss your child’s condition. What medications will they be taking? If they take insulin, is there a school nurse to administer it or what is the policy for children who need to self-inject? You will also need to let the teacher and other school personnel know what symptoms your child experiences when they have hypoglycemia and what they need to eat or drink to counteract each episode.
  • Does the school lunch system allow for special dietary needs? If not, you’ll need to plan to provide the lunch and snacks for your child. At this time, check on the school’s policy for eating snacks. Some schools do not allow snacks and if your child needs one, you will need to make special arrangements. Check that your child’s emergency snacks are kept in an easily accessible area.
  • What is the school policy for holiday and birthday treats? If high sugar and high fat treats are allowed, such as cupcakes and candy, discuss with the teacher the possibility that you’re notified before the day of the treat. This way you have time to plan your child’s meals for that day to accommodate the treat or have the ability to provide a sugar free or low carb treat for the class and your child.
  • Be prepared for out -of-school time including riding on the school bus and going on field trips. If your child rides the bus to school, the bus driver also needs to know that your child has diabetes and what to do in case of an emergency. Ask the school to let you know in advance when field trips will take place, whether the trip involves a meal or snack, and who will be accompanying the class. Volunteering to help with field trips is a great way to get to know your child’s friends and have the ability to manage your child’s needs.

Last of all, relax! Schools by law accommodate children with all types of special needs. By covering the basics listed above, you and your child can start the school year confident that their health needs are being met and they’re off to another great year!

For more information on diabetes and pre-diabetes, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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