Crystal Jackson is the Director of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Campaign and is the proud mom of Devin, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1991 and Dylan, her supportive brother.
Like most other parents of elementary school children, I felt a lot of excitement, anticipation and trepidation when I first sent my two children off to school in the mid 1990’s. Would they feel homesick, would their teacher be a good fit, would they easily make new friends with their classmates and would there be resources in place to support their individualized learning styles and to keep them engaged and excited about school? And what role could I play as a parent to best support the school community? As a mother of a daughter living with type 1 diabetes, I also wondered what could I do to ensure a safe and healthy learning environment for my daughter and to enhance awareness about the importance of schools and families working collaboratively to keep all students safe and healthy?
Shortly after receiving my PTA membership card, I became the local unit’s health and legislative chair and later became the legislation chair for the region. PTA taught me a lot about the importance of advocacy through education and persistence that I later put to use to advocate for my own daughter when she wasn’t getting the diabetes care she needed at school. PTA was a driving force in providing me with the advocacy skills and confidence to educate school administrators and legislators about how to best meet the needs of students with diabetes. In 1999, I led a group of Virginia parents that pressed the Virginia General Assembly to pass the first comprehensive school diabetes care law in the country, a major victory for all children with diabetes living in Virginia. This law is still in effect and is the gold standard for other states.
From this experience, the American Diabetes Association offered me a position where I could use my professional paralegal background, PTA experience and parent passion to make a difference. Since 1999, I have had the honor and good fortune of leading the Association’s Safe at School Campaign through working with a committed team of staff and volunteers to achieve legislative and policy change in states and school districts nationwide
The Association’s Safe at School Campaign provides families, schools and health care providers with the resources they need to keep children with diabetes safe at school and to overcome any obstacles that might stand in the way. As was my daughter’s case and for all children with diabetes, this includes advocating for training school staff members to provide care when a school nurse isn’t available. It means advocating to change laws and policies so capable children can self-manage their own diabetes anywhere in the school setting. And it means fighting to protect the rights of children with diabetes so they can enjoy access to the same educational and extracurricular opportunities as their peers.
As a mother, an advocate and an employee, I am proud that the American Diabetes Association devotes significant resources and people-power to children with diabetes and their families and I’m grateful that one PTA parent voice became a voice for many.
Safe at School Resources
The American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Campaign is dedicated to making sure all children with diabetes are medically safe at school and have the same educational opportunities as their classmates. www.diabetes.org/safeatschool
The American Diabetes Association’s August 15, 2013, Back to School Parent Webinar includes a Safe at School campaign overview and information on school diabetes care challenges, federal and state law, developing 504 Plans and more. Watch the webinar or download the transcript (PDF).
The American Diabetes Association recommends parents/guardians to work with their child’s diabetes health care provider to develop a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) before returning to school after diagnosis and to update the plan annually or as the child’s diabetes management needs change. The DMMP details the diabetes care needed at school to keep students with diabetes safe and healthy. The Association’s DMMP template can be found at www.diabetes.org/DMMP.
The American Diabetes Association has a template Section 504 plan to help families and schools develop a plan to address training school staff members, academic adjustments, self-management, extracurricular activities, communication and the school’s responsibilities in meeting the needs of the child. The template 504 plan can be found at www.diabetes.org/504plan.
The American Diabetes Association also has information explaining the rights of children to receive care in the child care setting www.diabetes.org/childcare and post-secondary students rights www.diabetes.org/college.
For other important information about diabetes for families and children go to http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/parents-and-kids/