How Can Kids Manage Diabetes at School?
When a person has diabetes, their daily routine stays mostly the same wherever they are. At school, most children with diabetes will need to:
- check their blood sugar levels
- take insulin or other diabetes medicines
- watch for and treat blood sugar highs and lows
- eat snacks and lunch at a certain time (with plenty of time to finish)
- have easy access to water and time for bathroom breaks
- participate in physical activity
Depending on your child’s age, school staff (like the school nurse or an aide) will help your child stay on track with their routine care. Teachers and coaches may assist with some parts of routine care too.
How Can I Prepare School Staff?
Beyond the day-to-day care, school staff need to be prepared in case of an emergency. Classroom teachers, the gym teacher, bus drivers, and coaches should know what to do if there’s a problem.
Here’s what you can do:
- Share the care plan. Meet yearly with the school nurse (and other staff who are involved in routine care) to review your child’s diabetes care plan. Check in more often if the plan changes.
- Teach key staff about daily care, especially for younger kids. Explain about your child’s target glucose range. Show them when to check blood sugar, how to give insulin, and how to use any devices (like a blood glucose monitor, CGM, or insulin pump). Everyone should to know where to find your child’s diabetes to-go kit and emergency supplies.
- Give the school essential information and supplies. The school needs a copy of your child’s care plan and emergency contacts. It’s also a good idea to give written permission for school staff and the diabetes care team to communicate. If a problem happens, the school can get your child’s health information quickly. Give teachers and coaches fact sheets about diabetes and extra snacks to keep on-hand.
- Prepare school staff for highs and lows. All adults who supervise your child should know how to use your child’s diabetes to-go kit. They should be able to identify and treat hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Teach them the basics and what to do in an emergency.
Can 504 Plans and IEPs Help Kids With Diabetes?
Schools that receive money from the U.S. government (all public schools and some private schools) are required to make sure every child can get an education. If a child has a special health need, like diabetes, the school can create a plan to make sure the child's health and education needs are met.
504 plans and IEPs are types of formal plans that can be used to set goals and measure progress. Partner with the school to learn more about how these plans can help meet your child’s needs:
- A 504 plan helps to make sure a child with a health condition or special need can fully participate in all school activities like their peers. For example, a 504 plan for a child with diabetes could include:
- permission to eat, drink, and use the bathroom anytime
- extra absences for sick days or doctor visits
- access to your child’s diabetes to-go kit and other supplies
- plans for staff to check blood sugar, and give glucagon and insulin
- accommodations for field trips and after-school activities
- An individualized education program (IEP) can be used if a child with a medical condition needs extra support inside or outside the classroom.
What Skills Should I Teach My Child?
Reassure your child that the adults at school can help. As your child gets older and takes on more responsibility for their care, they’ll need less help.
Your child needs to know how to:
- Care for their diabetes. Teach your child in an age-appropriate way about their care plan. Kids who are old enough to be involved in their care should know the basics, like how to check their blood sugar and what to do if it is too high or too low.
- Use their supplies. Your child should have their diabetes to-go kit with them at all times. Older kids should know how to use it and when to refill it.
- Advocate for themselves. Help your child know when and how to speak up, like if they don’t feel well, or if they need to have a snack or go to the restroom during class.
- Get help in an emergency. Be sure your child knows who they can count on to help during or after school (such as teachers, the school nurse, or a coach).
You can be a powerful advocate for your child. If you have questions about your child’s rights, read more about Safe at School campaign from the American Diabetes Association.