I remember in the weeks before my daughter Quinn started kindergarten I was anxious. But sending your child with type 1 diabetes to school is just another instance where parents need to do as much preparation and training as they can to have the confidence to let go on that first morning of school.
I know other parents cried as their child said goodbye, climbed the steps and walked through the door. For them it was simple separation. For us d-moms and d-dads, we wonder if our child will actually make it through the day unscathed. I didn't cry that first morning, as much as I had a right to, but I had to believe that she would be okay.
Preparing for School
Preparation begins for our family in the weeks before school starts. I begin gathering our diabetes supplies and filling the kits we keep at school to manage her diabetes on a daily basis. I call the assistant principal to set up a training session with staff, which takes place ideally before the first day of school. I fill out any paperwork that the school district needs, update my two-page instruction sheet and take a look at our 504 plan to see if there have been any changes that need to be addressed.
Diabetes Instruction Sheet
The two-page instruction sheet I update each year has two purposes. First, it highlights some of the main points and serves as a guide as I train the staff who oversees my daughter during the day. Second, it’s a quick reference for substitute teachers because it’s always included in their lesson plan (this is specified in our 504 plan).
When Quinn was in kindergarten, I always brought her to morning line-up. If there was a substitute teacher in her classroom, I walked right up to him/her and said, "This is Quinn. She has diabetes. Please read over her instruction sheet and don't hesitate to get the nurse or assistant principal if you have any questions about her care." Then beginning in first grade, I often gave Quinn the independence of being dropped off in the car line and didn't always know if there was a sub. That's why the two-page instruction sheet became so important.
Our instruction sheet has a photo of Quinn in the upper right corner so the teacher, sub or other staff member can easily identify which child she is and note that she requires special attention. The front of the sheet explains low blood sugar symptoms, treatments and follow-up care, including when to call 911 for severe hypoglycemia and how to use glucagon. The backside describes high blood sugar symptoms and protocols. I also include any other considerations, such as free access to water, the bathroom and office. In big type at the bottom of both sides are mine and my husband's cell phone numbers.
Training the School Staff
Staff members I include in the diabetes training session are the assistant principal, classroom teacher(s), art, music and gym teachers, the librarian and, of course, the school nurse. For some, the diabetes training serves as a review. But it’s brand new for the classroom teacher each year.
During the diabetes training, I go over the instruction sheet, point out important considerations in our 504 plan and demonstrate how to check blood sugars and use glucagon. I admit that I get a little shaky as I demonstrate the glucagon each year, because if they have to use it, it's a serious emergency situation.
If you’re anxious or nervous, understand that the classroom teacher probably is as well. I think the biggest key is to provide information without overwhelming them, but assure them that they can do this and if they have any questions--no matter how small--you are just a phone call away.