Creating a back-to-school checklist for parents of children with diabetes

(BPT) – Parents and guardians create many checklists when it comes time to send their kids back to school. These lists include school supplies and clothing to be purchased, setting up schedules for the school year, choosing which fun and exciting extra-curricular activities a child will participate in and establishing a school year routine.

Parents and guardians who have a child with diabetes need to create an additional diabetes management checklist to ensure their child’s diabetes needs are met in the school setting and to ensure their child is treated fairly. There are 215,000 children in the United States with diabetes under age 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School campaign works tirelessly to ensure that children with diabetes are medically safe in a school setting and have the same educational opportunities as their classmates.

“Having a plan in place to ensure access to diabetes care at school is essential for all children living with diabetes,” says Linda M. Siminerio, a registered nurse and co-chairperson of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Working Group. “When a nurse is not present, and there is no trained staff to provide diabetes care, children are placed in a potentially medically dangerous situation.”

Items parents and guardians of children with diabetes should put on their back-to-school checklists include:

* Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) or physician’s orders for the upcoming school year developed by the child’s diabetes care provider. The DMMP sets out the child’s diabetes care regimen while the child is in the school setting and provides the foundation for the development of the child’s Section 504 Plan or Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

* Meeting with the child’s school nurse, teachers and all other staff who will be interacting with the child – including the gym teacher and coaches – to explain and teach the child’s individual diabetes management needs and to make sure they understand how to recognize and treat hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

* Working with the child’s school nurse, principal and 504 coordinator to make sure each staff member understands his or her roles and responsibilities to meet the child’s needs, as contained in the child’s DMMP and Section 504 Plan/IEP.

* Being a valuable resource for the school nurse in helping to identify tools for training school personnel and making sure school staff members have the information they need recognize and treat diabetes emergencies.

* Encourage the child to educate his or her peers about their diabetes. Ask his or her teacher if the child can give a short presentation in class to discuss how they manage their diabetes, perhaps including a demonstration on how the child checks blood glucose or gives insulin. It may also be helpful to teach classmates to notify a teacher if the child is exhibiting symptoms of hypoglycemia. The more a child’s classmates have an awareness and understanding of diabetes, the better they can support them in their management of the disease.

Diabetes is a serious chronic illness that must be managed 24/7. Children who are able to self-manage their diabetes should be permitted to do so at school to maximize safety and minimize missed classroom time. Children who are not able to self-manage their diabetes need to rely on a school nurse or trained school employee who can administer the insulin – or in an emergency, a life-saving glucagon injection – and help with other diabetes care.

The Safe at School campaign offers many tools and resources for parents, school personnel and health care professionals that can help with the preparation of going back-to-school at, or by calling 800-DIABETES for information and guidance about a specific school diabetes management question or issue.

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