Back to school is an exciting time! Back to school when you have a child with Type One Diabetes is a whole different ballgame.
Our daughter was diagnosed with Type One Diabetes when she was 3 years old. Diabetes is an autoimmune disease which attacks the pancreas. The pancreas is no longer able to create insulin. Our bodies need insulin to break down the carbohydrates that we consume. We need carbohydrates in moderation for many things, including energy!
Diabetes is always with us
For almost three years Diabetes has become another member of our family. Diabetes goes with us to church, it follows us to the beach and the park. It hides behind us in family pictures, and it haunts us at potlucks and birthday parties. Diabetes is part of our everyday life. And because it goes everywhere with us it unfortunately had to go to Kindergarten with my daughter when she began school last year.
The weeks leading up to school starting I was a nervous wreck. I couldn’t sleep, I had a stomach ache and my heart was racing. For two years I had been the one in control. I knew everything she ate, I prepared everything she ate. I carb counted, I dosed insulin over and over again. I knew her signs of highs and lows. I knew if she was acting loopy we should check her sugars and I knew if she was acting defiant we should check her sugars. I had witnessed her having hypoglycemic seizures and fought off ketoacidosis when she had a stomach bug. I was her mom, her nurse, and her advocate. And the idea of not being with her all day scared me to death.
Diabetes Does Not Control Us!
But. And here’s the most important part. I had spent the past couples years teaching my daughter that diabetes did NOT control us. That Diabetes would not define who she could become. And if I chickened out of kindergarten, when she was SO ready-what would I be teaching her. So, we buckled up and we got ready. And you know what? We DID it! Every minor accomplishment is such an even bigger deal to us because we know the inner battle she fights every day when she heads out the door. She learned how to manage her diabetes away from me, she learned how to advocate for herself, she came out of her shell and asked questions, and answered questions regarding her disease. She met other students with many other types of “differences”, she learned to dose herself, and walk herself to the nurse’s office. But most of all, because we conquered Kindergarten she KNOWS she can face first grade fearlessly.
Make a Plan
Every year will present its new challenges. But we take each day in stride, learning from our past experiences and I hope if you’re nervous to send your child to school this year with Type One Diabetes I can help you out! I’ve set up a little list of steps that helped me feel more in control of the situation.
- Set up a meeting with your child’s teacher, school nurse, 504 coordinator, and one member of administration. This covers all your bases. This needs to be done BEFORE school begins, so that from day one everyone is aware. If your school does not have a school nurse, determine with administration the two designated personnel who will be in charge of administering your child’s medications, checking blood glucose etc.
- Set up an appointment with your Endocrinologist as close to school beginning as you can. This way they can write orders for the school nurse and you can present them at your meeting.
- Create “low boxes” for your child to have at school. We like to have one in the main office, one in the classroom, and one in the nurses office. We keep apple sauce pouches and low carb juice boxes in our low boxes. In the nurses box we also keep her Glucagon shot, keto strips, and a backup meter to check her BG if her Dexcom stops working.
- Before the 504 meeting make a list of your concerns. It helps immensely if you show up prepared. Your school may have experience with Type One’s or they may not. Ours had some experience so our 504 coordinator thought of things we hadn’t before and has been an excellent resource. Here are some things we included, but of course you will know your child best.
Ideas for 504 Considerations:
- Blood sugars will be checked upon arrival to school, and before loading the bus in the PM.
- Allow her 5 extra minutes before and after lunch to have her BG checked and her insulin administered so that she does not feel rushed at meal times.
- Assess her BG before and after Recess
- Assess her BG before and after PE
- Assess her BG before ANY assessments or tests. If her BG is below 80 or above 200 she will be allowed to take the exam when her BG is within range (80-120).
- No one will ever restrict her food, this decision is to be made between her and her parents. If there is a concern the nurse will contact parents.
- She will be able to carry a de-activated cell phone in order for her parents to receive Dexcom notifications. This phone will be connected to the schools WiFi and will remain in her diabetes purse at all times.
- She will be able to check her blood sugars whenever and wherever she needs to.
Additional Tips for beginning school:
- When you meet with the teacher find out the class schedule, especially activity times as you may need to adjust dosages related to being outside or physical activity.
- When you meet with the nurse remember they may not know a lot about Diabetes but you can educate them with kindness.
- Before school begins practice with your child walking from their classroom to the nurse’s office
- Plan to stay at the school the first couple of days. I read a book in my car, I helped run errands etc. just so that I was more available. After that it was a little easier.
You got this mama!
Advocating for our children can sometimes be intimating, but arriving to school prepared gives everyone a step up and a head start in the right direction. Remember, YOU know your child best and you know more about diabetes than nearly everyone you meet. But you can lead with LOVE when you interact with educators and staff at the school. Love goes a lot further than frustration.
Every day will be a learning curve but with the proper steps in place it can be a lot less scary!
Good luck this school year mama, you’ve got this!
Want to read more about back to school…check out these other great blogs from other Coastal Bend mamas!