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How to Prepare for a Student Living with Diabetes

Information for teachers

Laura KolodjeskiLaura Kolodjeski

Today, as part of our Back to School series, we’re focusing on the people who spend most days helping our children develop, learn and grow – teachers. As a mother, I know teachers have a lot on their plates since they have to learn, prepare, teach and be available to assist with each student’s unique needs. As we approach the upcoming school year, I was curious as to what information exists to help teachers prepare when they have a student with diabetes in their class.

I found some great resources that will hopefully be of value to teachers, particularly those who have never had a student with diabetes in their classroom. The most important elements I see in these resources are understanding and preparedness.

Tips for Teachers

The first resource I want to share is a list from the American Diabetes Association, called “Tips for Teachers of Students with Diabetes.” A few things I found especially helpful include:

  • Understand the needs of each child: The list points out that it’s important for teachers to understand that every child with diabetes is different and teachers should learn to recognize the unique symptoms of low blood sugar.
  • Be prepared: In the event a student does have low blood sugar, teachers should always be prepared by having portable snacks, such as juice and crackers, with them at all times, especially during field trips and disaster drills.
  • Don’t leave a child with low blood sugar alone: Make sure students with diabetes always use the buddy system. For instance, if a student with diabetes needs to see the nurse, they should always be accompanied by an adult or a responsible student.
  • Don’t draw unnecessary attention to the child: Children living with diabetes should not be treated differently from the other students. It’s important not to draw unnecessary attention when the child needs to eat a snack. Some teachers have developed a secret password for the student when it’s time to check blood sugar or time for a snack. This is especially helpful when the child is young and can’t tell time or he/she can’t remember their snacks or blood sugar testing.

You can find additional tips from the American Diabetes Association here. Another great resource is from an organization called Children with Diabetes. Their website provides general information about diabetes and offers suggestions for how to care for children with diabetes in the classroom. They also offer online forums where caregivers, including teachers, can ask questions and participate in conversations regarding children with diabetes.

Preparing for the School Year

Parents of children living with diabetes often meet with their child’s teacher, as well as the school nurse, to go over their child’s plan before the school year begins. During the meeting, parents and teachers can cover what they need to know about the individual child’s needs. Written instructions also come in handy when a teacher is absent from the class and a substitute teacher fills in. One example of instructions to leave for substitutes can be found here.

The good news for teachers preparing for a student or students with diabetes to join their class is that there are resources available and being educated can make the school year run more smoothly. Just remember to be on the look out for the warning signs of hypoglycemia, have snacks with you in the classroom and on field trips, and keep all lines of communication open with the student, school nurse, and parents.

Do you have any other tips for teachers or experiences that might be helpful to share? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Here’s to a happy and safe school year,


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