According to Schull, parents should ask to meet with all school personnel who will deal with their child, such as the school nurse, teachers, principal, bus drivers, librarians and physical education teachers, among others. The goal is to educate the team about general diabetes management, which includes how to recognize signs of lows and highs, testing for glucose levels and administering insulin.
According to information provided by Lilly Diabetes and Disney, at this meeting parents should also discuss their child's individual needs and develop a care plan to be followed during school.
"In my personal experience, teachers and staff at school want to do their very best and the best thing you can do is really teach, train, prepare, trust and establish a good relationship, because if people work with kids they want to make it a success for them," Schull said.
Lilly Diabetes and Disney also encourage parents to fill out the school health forms promptly every year with instructions and contact information.
The complete list of tips from Disney and Lilly Diabetes can be found at family.go.com. In addition to the health forms, it suggests setting up a 504 plan. Schools are required to make accommodations for any special need a child may have, and drawing up a 504 plan provides official documentation that a child has diabetes and spells out exactly what's necessary to help children thrive in school.
Crystal Jackson, director of the Safe at School program and the associate director of Government Affairs & Legal Advocacy within the American Diabetes Association, is charged with coordinating advocacy efforts using the legal protections to ensure that children with diabetes receive the appropriate accommodations at school.
The Safe at School program was established in 2004 as a way to help parents understand their children's legal rights and their protections in the school setting. For help with legal aspects, a staff of trained legal advocates is available. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-DIABETES (342-2383).
According to Jackson, two keys for establishing an effective 504 plan are to meet with the school ahead of time and to be a resource for the school nurse in terms of training. Safe at School templates for training and information on legal protections and resolving challenges can be found at diabetes.org/safeatschool.
"It's important for parents to be proactive and to approach the school in a spirit of cooperation," Jackson said. "You're going to work together to make sure your child is going to be healthy and is going to be able to participate in all the same activities as others students."
In addition to the above steps, Schull also suggests that parents make a class presentation to talk with children about their newly diabetic classmate, ensure that your child has all the supplies they'll need in the classroom, and prepare healthy lunches and snacks for school with carbohydrate counts of each food included.
"It's going to be an adjustment period. It's hard. Your child is worried. It's very distressing," said Schull. "They've felt crummy for a while, then slam, they're supposed to be normal with all these pokey needles and people bugging them about what they're eating. Parents, you can manage this. You can do it. There are going to be difficulties ahead, financial and emotional, but you can do it."
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