5 Ways to help your child manage their Type 1 diabetes at school
Here’s how to set your child up for good health and success when they’re in the classroom — and away from your watchful eye.
Managing the blood sugar level of a child with Type 1 diabetes can be tricky enough at home. But when they’re at school, it may feel impossible because you can’t control everything. In the lunchroom, friends might share sweet treats. In the classroom, teachers might offer snacks. And while their intentions are good, they might not know your child has diabetes.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to empower your child to take care of their own health, as well as to keep the school staff more informed. That will go a long way toward managing the condition when you’re not around. Here are 5 tips that can help your child manage Type 1 diabetes at school.
Meet with School Staff
Ask for a meeting with anyone at the school who may be caring for your child during the day. That usually includes:
- The principal.
- School nurses.
- The physical education teacher.
- The nutrition services manager.
- Office administrators.
During the meeting, you’ll want to review the diabetes medical management plan, or DMMP, developed by your child’s diabetes care provider. It should explain all the key information needed to care for and help your child manage their diabetes. This includes your child’s:
- Target blood sugar range.
- Low blood sugar symptoms.
- Schedule for checking blood glucose levels.
- Insulin needs and other medications.
- How to manage physical activity.
- Meal and snack plans.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends updating the DMMP at least every year, and more often if treatment changes. The staff should also know how diabetes affects your child, including on a behavioral level.
“It’s critical for parents to advocate for their child at school by making sure teachers and peers understand that glucose swings may affect energy and attention,” says Minisha Sood, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Did you know that pairing your child’s glucometer with Wellframe, a digital health management app, lets you share their blood sugar levels with their care team for monitoring help? Many health plans offer Wellframe for free. Find out if yours does by calling your plan.
Make a Daily Supplies Checklist
This simple tool can help the school staff make sure your child has all the supplies they need to stay well and watch their Type 1 diabetes at school. The list might include:
- Blood sugar meter and extra batteries.
- Testing strips and lancets.
- Insulin and syringes/pens.
- Antiseptic wipes.
- Ketone testing supplies.
- Fast-acting carbs like glucose tablets, fruit juice, or hard candies.
Also, be sure to put the numbers for your child’s pediatrician and endocrinologist on the checklist, even if the school already has that information. It might save someone a little time if they need to reach your child’s care team quickly.
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Stash Extra Snacks in the School Office or Your Child’s Locker
Having food on hand is important in case of sudden blood sugar changes. It can be helpful to pick foods for which you know how much insulin is needed, says Mansur Shomali, MD. Dr. Shomali is an endocrinologist and the co-author of Diabetes Essentials.
Teach Your Child Who and When to Ask for Help
Let your child know that if something feels off, it’s important to ask for help. Talk with them about the signs to look for. Top ones include:
- Feeling irritable or nervous.
- Sweating or chills.
- Blurred vision.
- Sudden weakness.
- Anger or sadness.
Remind them to go to someone who knows about their condition. You might want to practice the list of names a few times a week until you think they’ve got it. (Long carpool lines and bus stops are the perfect time for a light-hearted pop quiz.)
Your child should also know when to get their blood sugar tested and who will do that. Are you finding that your child needs help more than once a week? It might be time to adjust their treatment plan. Reach out to your diabetes care provider and ask about next steps.
Continue to Check In
As both your child and the school staff settle in to managing your child’s condition, it’s okay to keep touching base to make sure everything is on track, says Dr. Sood.
“While there’s increasing awareness around diabetes in general, challenges at school exist for kids with the condition,” says Dr. Sood. Things like treat temptation, stress about schoolwork, an active gym class, dehydration, and time of day can all play a role in glucose fluctuations.
Dr. Sood suggests talking with your child regularly about how things are going and listening to any sticking points or frustrations that come up. Diabetes management can sometimes be a work in progress. Kids need to know that they can share their feelings with adults and that you’re there to help them along the way — even when you’re apart.
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