Tips for Parents: Back to School with Diabetes

You might remember Naomi from Perth, Australia from her blog post earlier this year. Today we’ve invited her back to talk about what’s top of mind for many of you: back to school! Naomi’s five-year-old son, Xavier, lives with T1D. And while the timing of the school semester and specific policies might vary from one country to another, the preparation and commitment from the heart of a parent is consistent across the world.

Starting school…for most parents, it is exciting, nerve wrecking and sometimes daunting. Throw diabetes in the mix and it all escalates to a higher level. (And for me it was also a time where my mind went into over drive!) I looked into schools well before Xavier was even close to the age of attendance, studied the specifications of the school, the teacher qualifications… the list goes on! I rang each one and asked so many questions, trying to judge which school would be best. We ended up sending Xavier to our local school. It is smaller than most, and very close to home. They have no other children with diabetes there, but have been amazing.

So, how did we go? Enrollment was relatively easy, with help from our endo team and the hospital. A health care plan was done by the hospital for us, as they do for all children with T1D, in conjunction with the parents, and a letter of diagnosis to apply for funding to have an education assistant for Xavier, especially at recess and lunch. We then organised a meeting with his teacher, education assistant, principle, vice principle, and opened the meeting to any others who may be interested in learning more. At that meeting, I requested my Medtronic rep to come along with demo pumps. I have found that people find it so much easier to understand what to do when they have an actual pump to learn on, knowing it is not attached to anyone, and they can’t do anything ‘wrong’. I have done this twice now for school, and on both occasions asked the group in attendance if doing that was beneficial to them. The answer is resoundingly “yes” each time.

We have trained the teachers as best we can: how to test BG, what to do when high, low, and when he eats, etc. The school has my mobile number, and my work number, and know they can call at any time if they are stuck. And they do. I have told them there is no question too small, a phone call is a small thing when it comes to the care of my child.

When it comes to his food, we pack everything, and write a note each day with what is to be eaten along with how many total carbs. We make it very basic, so there can be no misinterpretation. I also take a picture of each one, just in case it goes missing for whatever reason! Anything to help make the teachers job a little easier, and my mind rest a little more. Just make sure to remind them that what is written down has to be eaten at that time… eating lunch accidentally at recess throws a spanner in the works!

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There have been a few hiccups along the way but as time has passed, I have been very lucky to have the same Education Assistant for Xavier, and she has picked it up beautifully, as have the teachers. I believe there are a few key reasons for this:

  • They are open and willing to learn.
  • They are not afraid to ask questions. And when they do, I never give the impression that it is a ‘silly’ question. They are all important.
  • There’s always open communication. If there is a problem, I do not rant and rave, but discuss it calmly, yet with the seriousness it deserves.
  • I understand Xavier is not the only child in their class. I also know they understand how important correct management is. I know that whatever they do, it is done with care, and mistakes happen, just as long as they are only occasional.  It is never intentional. We as parents make mistakes as well…
  • I have the meetings with the teachers and caretakers that will be with Xavier only a day or 2 prior to starting school. This way the information is still ‘fresh’, and easier to remember.

I will finish by saying how lucky we have been. We are lucky to have such a willing school. I can only hope that the rest of our school journey is as good (for the most part) as the beginning has been.

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