It’s back to school month and everyone is gearing up for another school year by shopping for clothes and school supplies. However, for parents of children living with diabetes, back to school season involves more in-depth planning with school officials. Diabetes management is 24/7—it doesn’t take a break when a child boards the school bus. Federal and state laws help to ensure these needs are met at school and school personnel must be prepared.
After my daughter, Devin, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I made it my job to advocate on behalf of her and all children with diabetes. In 1999, the first successful school diabetes care legislation passed in the Virginia General Assembly, which resulted in improved standards of care for students with diabetes in many other states. Now, 30 states meet the American Diabetes Association’s requirement of our three Safe at School tenets:
- School staff administering insulin
- School staff managing glucagon
- Capable students being allowed to self-manage their diabetes
Since going through school and college, Devin has become an advocate of her own. She recently began working as a registered nurse (RN) at a Northern Virginia hospital. After her own experience in the school system, she was inspired to become a role model for others affected by diabetes. Her school nurses set a great example and were knowledgeable about her diabetes, understood all her needs and were supportive of self-management at an early grade.
Devin understands that supporting someone with diabetes is a team effort which includes parents, teachers and nurses. Thankfully, the American Diabetes Association offers training resources for non-medical school staff.
To give these parents peace of mind knowing their children’s diabetes needs are met, the Association started the Safe at School campaign. Launched in 2004, the campaign helps parents ensure their children with diabetes are medically safe in the classroom and during school activities. The program also offers guidance for overcoming obstacles and discrimination when things don’t go according to plan.
Things have come a long way since Devin was a little girl. With proper planning and resources, children with diabetes can take advantage of all of the same school opportunities as their peers.
As you prepare your child with diabetes for the new school year, think about the following:
- Plan out care before school starts
- Approach the school with the spirit of cooperation
- Make sure there are plenty of diabetes supplies available
- Confirm all contact information with school administration
- Update your child’s 504 plan (templates available in English and Spanish)
If you’re interested in learning about various state legislations concerning children with diabetes and schools, read about Safe at School victories. You can also help or stay informed by becoming a diabetes advocate to help fight for your child’s rights.
For more info about the Safe at School campaign and to learn how you can help keep your child with diabetes medically safe, visit Diabetes.org/SafeAtSchool or call 1 (800)-DIABETES for help.
Crystal Jackson is the mother of a daughter, Devin, living with Type 1 diabetes and is the director of Safe at School for the American Diabetes Association. She is also a former PTA officer with Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia.