Back to School Basics for People With Diabetes

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Thousands of people will prepare for schoolthis month with the comforting ritual ofbuying folders, book covers, pencils andclothes. In the spirit of that preparation,I must ask, What about diabetes? Whatsteps are you going to take to avoid thestress highs, mid-morning lows and theunexpected this school year?

I love the phrase “We never plan to fail, wejust fail to plan.” This is so true; creatinga diabetes plan will ensure the highestpotential for success—regardless of thegrade, school or student’s age.

Before-School Homework

1. Enquire about school policies regardingblood testing and medical emergencies.

2. Meet with teachers to explain what itmeans to have diabetes.

  • Describe the best method of treatment for the student’s diabetes.
  • Find out the schedule for breaks and meals (school lunchtimes can be anytime between 10:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.).
  • Explain what happens during an occurrence of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia and give an action plan for each situation.
  • Give the teacher a supply of glucose tablets and snacks to keep in the classroom for emergencies.
  • Explain in detail what to do if a student has low blood glucose (for example, the student should not be left alone).
  • Discuss special activities like field trips.

3. Develop a buddy/warning system. Forexample, parents can have the school eitherpage or text message the student’s glucoselevels if they are outside of a predeterminedrange.

4. Talk to gym teachers and coaches. Makesure they understand the signs of hyper- andhypoglycemia and know the dangersassociated with both. Review a writtenaction plan to deal with these emergencies.

Once the homework is done, I challengeyou to think creatively about incorporatingdiabetes into your child’s school year. Youmight suggest that your child choosediabetes as the topic of a science project,a class presentation, a speech or a bookreport.

For the student with diabetes who mightbe nervous talking publicly about his orher diabetes, consider an open letter aboutdiabetes to the class. In the letter, thestudent could describe what diabetes is,how it works, how to respond during highsand lows and what the person with diabetesneeds from others. Or, the student couldwrite a story about another person withdiabetes to illustrate the shared condition.(Lots of young people have used my story asa way to start talking about their diabetes inschool.)

The parents of younger students withdiabetes could write a letter to the otherparents explaining the educational valuediabetes can provide. Here is a suggestedstarting point:

What Your Child Will Learn AboutDiabetes This Year

  • You can’t “catch” diabetes.
  • How exercise affects glucose levels.
  • Sometimes people with diabetes use interesting devices to care for their condition.
  • People with diabetes can do anything as long as they test their blood glucose, take their medications and eat appropriately.

The most important thing for a student withdiabetes is to be prepared. Planning aheadmeans safety. I know I will be ready—I hopeyou and your child will be, too!

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