BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL – PART 2 of 2
Parents of children with Type 1 diabetes know that keeping your child healthy is a 24/7 job, so it can feel scary to drop your child off for school, and away from your watchful eye, for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. The best way to make sure things go smoothly is to communicate early and often with every teacher and faculty member possible who is going to be part of your child’s school year.
Diabetes can be an overwhelming topic to take in for the uninitiated, so it’s important to boil down what faculty and staff need to know about your child’s diabetes. Here are 5 good topics to discuss:
1. How T1D Looks with Your Child. Share with them how a low and a high typically manifest. Put the description in common terms, using words like “pale, anxious, headachy”. This is critical because sometimes the child will name these common symptoms before they realize they might be low or high, and the teacher needs to be aware of these watchwords.
2. “What I’ve learned about T1D.” I always tell our son’s teachers that I knew nothing about Type 1 before he was diagnosed. So I give them the basics, starting with that his body does not produce insulin anymore. Use that as an opportunity to say he manages his diabetes with shots, pump, etc.
3. Your Child’s Feelings About Diabetes. Give enough information on this so teachers feel comfortable having a dialogue with your child. Is your son embarrassed that he is different? Does your daughter mind that people know? What info can you share with classmates?
4. Defining the Teacher’s Role. Let them know that it is okay to ask your child to check his/her blood sugar levels, but make sure they know it’s important not to assign judgement to the numbers. Things are going to change, so it’s hard for a kid to always stay in target range. Kids grow, kids have hormones, kids get stressed, and some days they are very active. Ask them to let you know if they notice recurring lows or even emotional struggles with T1D at school.
5. The Need for Communication. Prep teachers that they are going to be hearing from you a lot, and you’re hoping it will be a two-way street. It is important that you tell them that you will be their new best friend for the year and you can be reached by phone, text, email, etc. I try to tell them that I will communicate early about medical appointments and blood sugar issues that might impact their schoolwork.
In the end, what you want them to know is that your child is not the diabetes, but diabetes impacts every aspect of your child’s life, and that’s why it’s so important for those around your child to know about Type 1. Above all, thank them in advance for taking care of your child at school. It takes a team!