Now that it’s August, it seems every where I turn, I am bombarded with reminders that “It’s Back to School Time!” Everyone from department stores to grocers to doctors offer checklists for school supplies, first-day-of-school outfits and sports activity physicals. For those living with diabetes and their parents, there can be even more to remember. We’ve featured a number of Back to School topics here on the blog, both for K-12 and college — so I thought it might be helpful to compile some tips to help get you back in the swing of things.
Start with a Plan
Consider making an appointment with your child’s diabetes care team for an updated diabetes care plan. You can later use this plan to educate and inform school personnel. Susan Kramer, RN, BSN, recommends sharing this plan with your school nurse. “Working together, we may be able to develop an effective diabetes care plan to help manage that child’s diabetes while they’re with us at school for those eight hours,” she said.
Be clear about your child’s needs. The American Diabetes Association encourages working with your school to create a 504 plan. Both Lorraine Sisto, mother of Caleb, who lives with type 1, and 5th grade teacher Kendel Srader agree. “Everyone should have a 504 plan to protect their child,” Lorraine said. “It prepares all parties involved in case something comes up. With a 504 plan in place, there’s no confusion.”
Kendel suggests meeting with teacher(s) before school begins. “Make sure you have a meeting before school even starts,” she said. “Have the child there, if the child is old enough. It is important for teachers and the nurses to all be on the same page.”
College students living with diabetes may want to consider trying to be more independent with their diabetes management before leaving the nest: “Knowing I’d have to move away from home, I tried to be more self-sufficient and deal with my diabetes self-management over the course of the last couple of years,” said college student Nolan Crosson.
Before you start packing, think about contacting the school’s student health services, your dorm’s Resident Assistant (RA) and professors: “I set up everything at the health center before school started,” said college student Amanda Mezer. “I think it is important to tell the health center, RA and professors that I have diabetes.” Rachel Scott also worked with her student services to communicate with professors.
During the School Day
Think about setting up a system for alerting your child when it’s time to test his or her blood sugar. Caleb uses a digital watch. “To remind me when I need to check sugars, my watch beeps at set times throughout the day,” he said. “I also check when my CGM buzzes high or low, or if I’m starting to feel low.”
Stash snacks in multiple places, such as the teacher’s desk and the nurse’s office, suggests Children with Diabetes®, and emphasize that snacks may be required based on blood sugar level.
If the day includes standardized testing, your child may be eligible for special accommodations, which you may need to request ahead of time (such as a part of the 504 plan). Find some tips on diabetes and the standardized test on The DX.
According to Nolan, time management can also play a role in managing diabetes while away at college. Tracking your day with apps may be helpful. “I’m a big user of health apps that track your exercise, food, insulin and blood sugar,” said college student Rosemary M.
Finding other students living with diabetes may help you better adjust to college life and diabetes management. “I would really encourage diabetics to seek out other people living with diabetes. Get connected and talk about it,” college student Kristi Albright said. Group support may also help you connect with others. “It’s been really surprisingly helpful to have this group of people to talk to and bounce ideas off of,” said Dani Petrunich, Kristi’s roommate.
National organizations can also be a good resource to help students find support. Students with Diabetes®, a foundation set up by beauty pageant winner Nicole Johnson, aims to create a community and help connect college students living with diabetes.
Summer will be over before we know it! Will you be ready? With the help of the diabetes community and these tips, I hope so! Help others by leaving your own back-to-school tip in the comment section below. Here’s to a happy, healthy school year.
All the best,
Disclosure: Students with Diabetes is a registered service mark of the University of South Florida.
Children with Diabetes is a registered service mark of T-1 Today, Inc.