Managing diabetes at school

Boy and school teacher

Managing diabetes at school entails proper planning, documentation, and open communication. There are an estimated 210,000 children in the US living with diabetes. These children can engage in the same activities as their peers, but they need additional considerations when going to school or participating in extracurriculars. This may mean taking extra breaks to eat, checking blood glucose levels, interacting with an insulin pump or taking insulin injections.

boy with diabetes playing soccer

School can be stressful enough for kids without the added burden of diabetes. For the best and safest experience, attending school involves a collaboration of everyone from parents to child to school staff. Each role brings a distinct perspective and significant tasks.    

Create a 504 Plan 

The U.S. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires any school that receives federal funding to make accommodations for students with impairments that affect their education; this includes diabetes. Parents are encouraged to work with their healthcare team outline care instructions for school staff in a document called a 504 Plan. 

What is included in a 504 Plan?  

Generally, the plan is an individualized for each student and would cover content such as an explanation of the type of diabetes the child has, a list of supplies they have, frequency of meal breaks, adjustments for physical activity and more. You can find samples of 504 Plans online to get you started, but always update to your child’s needs.  


Who do I give the 504 Plan to?  

A student’s 504 Plan would generally be shared with schoolteachers, nursing staff, and school administrators. Younger children generally have just one teacher and school nurse to consult with, but older students may have more than 7 teachers and coaches and each should receive a copy.  


Communication is key 

The level of care needed for each student varies by age. Preschool through elementary school, children need a high level of assistance. Whereas middle school through high school-aged kids may typically require less because they are more capable of managing their diabetes at school. Regardless of age, open communication amongst parents, students, and staff is imperative.   


The parent’s role  

Parents know their child’s circumstances better than anyone, so it is up to them to document their child’s care routine. Chris, whose child has type 1 diabetes, recommends that parents get to know the school staff at the beginning of the school year. This is a good time to walk through the 504 Plan, answer any questions, and even conduct a training demo for diabetes technology – like Naomi, whose son has type 1 diabetes, did. When communicating with teachers, be sure to educate them on diabetes if they do not know. Emphasize the severity of the condition but avoid instilling fear in teachers as Meri, mother of three boys with type 1 diabetes, learned. Instances involving low or high blood sugar may cause teachers to panic rather than handle the situation calmly and concisely.   

The teacher’s role

Children are very astute and may inquire about what makes the child with diabetes different from them. Stephanie, long-time Special Educator who has type 1 diabetes, starts each school year educating her students about her condition. This is a valuable practice for educators to do if anyone in the classroom has diabetes. When everyone has an understanding, it provides reassurance. It may encourage their peers to look out for warning signs as well.    Teachers must also implement instructions listed in the student’s care plan. As Vince, an elementary school principal with type 1 diabetes, explains, teachers should be aware of diabetes symptoms, allow snacks, unlimited bathroom breaks, and much more.  


Prepare a diabetes bag  

The most important aspect of managing diabetes at school is a well-packed diabetes bag. A diabetes bag holds everything the child would need in case of an emergency. Amy, a teacher living with type 1 diabetes alongside her son, answers what to keep in a diabetes bag. She ensures her son has things such as glucose gel, blood testing kit, and spare batteries for his insulin pump. Your supplies may differ based on the child’s diabetes type and treatment course.  It is best to keep the diabetes bag with the child in their backpack or desk at all times for easy access in case of an emergency.  


Considering diabetes technology 

Deciding on a technology that can best meet a child’s needs can seem like a big decision. There are many options to consider. It’s important to evaluate different products and, if appropriate, talk with the child about their preference. In addition to researching the products, evaluate the services provided by each medical device company. Some offer more support than others such as providing product-specific training to teachers or other school staff. If that’s important to your family, it may impact your decision. Many people also reach out to peers or online communities to get additional insights. Carefully consider the benefits of different technologies to find the right one for your family. Medtronic Diabetes offers technology options based on your child's approved course treatment. Learn more about your options with Medtronic Diabetes.  


Success means support 

Managing diabetes at school takes preparation and communication among parents, children, and school staff. It may feel overwhelming at times, but if everyone supports each other, students can experience the same opportunities for fun and learning as their peers.    For more advice about managing diabetes at school or back-to-school tips, visit the Loop blog archive.     



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