Back to school with diabetes

Back to school with diabetes

Heading back to school can be stressful.  There are new books to buy.  Every child seems to need classroom shoes, gym shoes, walking to school shoes and then there are the gym clothes, jeans and more! The list is endless but when you are a parent of a child with diabetes, the list is longer still.  Thankfully there are a few basics to remember when sending your child with diabetes back to school.

Meet with staff

meet with staff

No matter where you live, you should always make sure that you have a meeting with school staff before your child heads back to school.  If you live in an area that has 504 plans or any sort of diabetes care plans in place, this meeting can be where details are finalized.  If you don’t have any sort of official plans in your district, a meeting with staff is still important.

You want to meet with staff to discuss what they can expect when they have a child with diabetes in their school.  While your child may not be their first child with diabetes, each child’s care needs are different. It is important that they understand your child’s individual treatment plan.

At this meeting you will work together to establish roles.  Carefully outline what do you expect from the teacher and the support staff. Make sure that they understand what they can expect from you.  Finally,  ensure that everyone knows what tasks your child can do on their own.

You should also discuss things like, how will exams be handled?  It is important that school staff understand that  diabetes can cause cognitive impairment when the child is out of range.

You also want to establish a method of communication. The school  should understand that they can contact you and that you would like to be able to stay in touch with them.  Working together will make the year go smoother for everyone.

Click here for a few more ideas of what to take to this meeting.

Gather diabetes supplies.

diabetes supplies

Depending on the age of the child, the list of supplies that you require can be different.  A small child will require a change of clothes just in case he/she is high and has an accident in school.  An older child may require access to a phone or cell phone to ask you questions about their care.

Here are a few basic items that can be left in a backpack or put in a safe place at school.

  • juice boxes or glucose tablets
  • granola bars or other carb rich  and carb free snacks
  • spare test strips
  • meter batteries
  • pump batteries
  • a spare glucometer
  • extra needles or pen tips
  • spare insulin vial (to be kept in a fridge)
  • ketone meter and strips
  • spare infusion set
  • spare insulin reservoir
  • alcohol swabs
  • hand wash
  • water bottle
  • sharps disposal container

Other things to remember

go on field trips

If your schedule allows, volunteer to be a part of activities at school.  This will give you a chance to get to know school staff and they will learn a bit more about you.  It will also allow you to discreetly keep an eye on your child’s care without them feeling different.

For younger children, check to see if supports or nurses are available through your district.  The school may be entitled to extra funding that would allow them to have one on one care for your child for all or part of the day.

Make the year fun! Your child is a child first.  Plan ahead with staff regarding things like parties, extra curricular activities, outings and exams so that your child gets the most out of their school year.

For a guide to care policies in many Canadian schools please check out this link.

Going to School with Diabetes Has Changed

Today’s prompt for Diabetes Blog Week asks what changes we have seen since diagnosis.

In the past 15+ years, we have seen a lot of changes.  We have seen 5 second glucometer results instead of 30 torturous seconds. We have seen long acting insulin, smart pumps and now sensor augmented pumps.  We have seen Continuous Glucose Monitors go from blinded instruments that you could only get from the hospital to tools that you can wear every day to watch real time trends!

One of the biggest changes that I have seen since my son was diagnosed with diabetes however is how provinces, school boards, and schools are now dealing with children with diabetes here in Canada.

I first began dealing with this issue when my son was 3.  He still had a year to go before he would enter the school system, but the school knew about my knowledge of diabetes care.  They wanted a heads  up on what to expect when a recently diagnosed student returned to school.  Together we were able to explore the roles and needs of both staff and student.

I spent time looking at what was being done in other provinces and other schools.  The results shocked me.  With the exception of New Brunswick, most areas had little to no policies for children with diabetes in schools.  The only thing that they tended to note was whether or not (and usually it was not), they would administer insulin in school and where the insulin was to be kept.

At first I was shocked. Diabetes was not a new disease.  How could it not be dealt with in the school system? Easily…in previous years multiple daily injections, home blood glucose monitoring and insulin pumps were not the norm in diabetes care.  Times were changing and school policies needed to change as well…and they have.

In 2015 provinces such as Newfoundland and Quebec now also have provincial policies in place.  Provinces such as British Columbia are working with their nursing staff to see better protection in place.  In other provinces, people are still working to find something that works for all parties.

The big difference is that today, provinces and parents are talking. Today, school boards are contacting myself, the Canadian Diabetes Association, and parents of children with diabetes to ask what our children’s needs are. There is a willingness to learn and a willingness to create change.

This does not mean that the problem of care for children with diabetes in Canada is solved. It does not mean that parents have no concerns when they send their children with diabetes to schools.  It means that in more places, there are less concerns. It means that in more schools there is already education and policy in place. That is a wonderful thing.  It shows that over time things can change for the better. I am positive that the next 15 years will see many more leaps and bounds for our children with diabetes as they return to school.

diabetes in school
Heading to school with diabetes can be stressful

Luck of the Irish

I am not Irish.  I have never really thought much about St. Patrick’s Day.  As a grade school child, it was a day to make shamrocks and wear green to school.  Over the course of the years, it was just another day.  That was until the year 2000.

That was the year that we all spent wondering if the banks would shut down.  Would the Y2K issue crash everything that we had come to rely on? How would our lives change? Well, Y2K never really seemed to impact much but the year 2000 did forever change my life. It was the year that my two year old son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and was given just 24 hours to live.

For 15 years, March 17 has been a day of sadness and celebration. I grieve for the life my son never got to have–a life without carb counting, injections or blood glucose tests.  Its been a day when I relive every minute of naivety, fear, panic, and gratitude.

Fifteen years later, I live in a city that celebrates St. Patrick’s day with a holiday.  I have had the opportunity to go to Ireland and fall in love with the country’s rich history.  I enjoy listening to many lively Irish tunes.  Its listening to those songs and thinking of this day that led my mind ot wonder if perhaps it was that Irish luck that protected us all of those years ago.

Perhaps it was the whisper of a leprechaun that put my son to the front of the cue in the doctor’s office on that St. Paddy’s day so many years ago.

The doctor who would go on to look after my son from ICU to an independent teen could have been an oversized leprechaun…with a different color beard of course.  He was definitely a stroke of luck.  He was one of the few doctors in that area who were forward thinking with their prescription of insulin regiments. He also believed in allowing us to learn and grow with my son’s diabetes care.

It was definitely the luck of the Irish that led me to make one of my first ever online searches for “parents of children with diabetes”.  It brought me to an online email support group that would become my lifeline.  With the stroke of a few keys, I “met” people from all over the world who would become my family.  I met people who knew exactly what I was dealing with and could help me to find my way.

I found mentors and friends who would be with me through the highs and the lows.  We would stay connected, meet on occasion and always been there for one another.

Through them, I would find the strength to go forward and help other people.  I would find a way to make a mark and hopefully improve the lives of other families living with diabetes.

March 17, 2000 changed our world.  It showed us the insidious nature of type 1 diabetes.  The luck of the Irish has been with us in  many ways however.  We have received  numerous gifts along this bumpy path.

Fifteen years later, my son is on the verge of graduating high school. Type 1 diabetes is just something that he has lived with for as long as he can remember. I would still give anything for him not to have to deal with this but its a part of him that he has come to accept.  March 17 is a day to celebrate the luck of the Irish, the blessing of those tricky little leprechauns, and the day that my son received his first injection of life saving insulin.

from blackberry (10)