What is the most frightening thing for parents of children with type 1 diabetes?
(Hint: look into the eyes of the parents dropping their children at diabetes camp for the first time).
The answer may vary wildly between families, but there is usually one held in common. The typical response is: when your child is out of your line of vision and cared for by someone else. We see this happen most frequently in the school environment because of the sheer amount of time spent there. Being that children are at school about 40 hours a week, having solid plans in place are essential.
Whether your child is in preschool or high school, a similar set of worries abound. Certain measures of safety must always be maintained for a child with diabetes at school. How do we go about setting these policies in place and teaching school staff? Good question, let’s look into that together.
These children are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act because of their diagnosis with type 1 diabetes.
Setting both a Diabetes Medical Management Plan and a 504 Plan in place are a necessity to ensure your child’s needs are met at school as well as outlining the parent’s expectations. Both are accomplished through the plans I have mentioned.
What is a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP)?
A DMMP is a plan put in writing that addresses an individual’s medical needs while at school. The plan is a collaborative effort created by the family and health care team. It is in place once signed by the health care providers, student, parents and school personnel.
What is a 504 Plan?
A 504 plan refers to section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1973. A 504 plan specifies modifications and accommodations specific to the individual student needs. Compliance with the 504 plan is not optional for a school, it is mandatory.
Here is a wonderful reference list of plans needed at school. My husband worked tirelessly on our first 504 plan. These documents are a great resource for your family to adapt your personalized plans from.
Asking someone to care for your child without educating them is not only unreasonable but completely unsafe. If you are taking care of diabetes at home, you should also be capable of educating providers at school. If you are lucky enough to have a local Certified Diabetes Educator who is willing to help educate, enlist their help. Look into programs offered through JDRF, the American Diabetes Association or your local hospital and Endocrinologist’s office. You are not alone with all of these support networks.
You will find that people are eager to learn about type 1 diabetes. Education is power; it is hard to take care of something you know nothing about. Engage your child in this process as a teacher if they show interest. Most children don’t like to be talked about, but rather be a part of the conversation.
Over the grade school years my daughter has asked me to teach her class about diabetes a few weeks into the school year. I follow her lead when she is comfortable and we do it together. She finds it easier to tell everyone about diabetes at the same time and then the pesky daily questions from peers stop. Remember other students are usually the first line of defense if your child isn’t feeling well with their diabetes at school. The importance of educating peers shouldn’t be underestimated.
I encourage parents to be the teachers as they know their unique day to day life with diabetes the best.
You are all the experts in diabetes care in your family. You don’t have to have initials behind your name to qualify you as an amazing teacher.
Dig into the movies, handouts, books, and many other educational tools available to you through the resources I spoke of. Place a call or a visit and inquire about educational tools you can have, borrow and share with others.
Remember to keep it simple and easily digestible. You know how you felt when you got all of that information at diagnosis- overwhelmed, right? With all of the daily responsibilities and ballooning classroom sizes our teachers have their plates full. Many schools are without Nurses and teachers have huge britches to fill.
This book is a favorite for our teachers over the years: Understanding Diabetes by Dr. Chase (aka The Pink Panther Book)
Here is a link to JDRF’s School Advisory Toolkit.