Sending a child with diabetes back to school can be a stressful event. You worry about the care your child will receive. Will the staff know anything about diabetes care? Will they understand high or low blood sugars and how they impact your child? The best way to alleviate your fears is to make sure that you have a 504 plan in place to outline everyone’s roles and responsibilities.
What is a 504 Plan?
If you live in the United States of America and are sending your child with diabetes to a publicly funded school, you should have a 504 plan in place. According to Crystal Jackson of the American Diabetes Association, “schools typically respond to news of a student’s diagnosis by requesting a copy of the doctor’s orders for the child or the child’s diabetes medical management plan (DMMP), a document that outlines not only doctor’s orders concerning diabetes management but also other school-relevant issues, including how skilled the child is with blood sugar checks and other care tasks.” She further reminds parents to check to see if their school has its own health forms that need to be completed by your child’s diabetes team.
Whether your child is newly diagnosed or returning to school for another year, you have a right to request a 504 plan which will spell out the school’s responsibilities for helping your child manage his/her diabetes care during the school day. To do this, send a formal request to the school principal or designated 504 coordinator.
Once the meeting is set, you will want to draw up your own 504 plan. There are many templates available online including ones from www.childrenwithdiabetes.com
What should you include in your 504 Plan?
In your plan, you will want to include things like:
- Providing for extra snack times
- Allowing extra time to finish a test when class time was missed because of taking care of a diabetes-related task
- Checking blood glucose levels before and during exams
- Not being penalized for diabetes-related absences
- Specific locations for blood glucose checking and insulin injection(allowing the child to check/inject in the classroom if he/she prefers)
- Having a buddy system in place to ensure that the child never goes to the nurse’s office alone
- Specific guidelines on who will train staff on diabetes care, insulin and glucagon use
- Information on how supervisions for field trips will be addressed
- Guidelines for handling school parties and snacks
- Information on dealing with diabetes and supply teachers
- Other age-appropriate accommodations like carb counting and assistance interpreting blood glucose readings for younger children
- Juice or glucose tablets should always be wherever your child is
- Check blood glucose levels before intense physical activity
- The range in which your child can participate in physical activities. Note when your child is too high to participate and what you consider to low to be active.
- Unrestricted access to water and washrooms
- A time to speak to fellow classmates about living with diabetes and what they need to know to best help their fellow student
To learn more about how to prepare for a 504 meeting, read our ebooklet.