Back to school with Type 1 diabetes


by Matthew Stephen, MD

Jul 31, 2017

Transitioning from summer break back into school can be difficult for any child, but for those with Type 1 diabetes, school presents additional challenges. Beyond gathering school supplies and picking out a first-day-of-school outfit, parents often stress about how to make sure their child will be safe and healthy while at school.

Managing Type 1 diabetes in the school setting requires the coordinated efforts of all invested in caring for these children. It’s important to make sure the child, parents, nurses and teachers are all on the same page when it comes time to make the transition back to school.

Maintain consistency

For parents, it is important to maintain consistency with regard to diabetes care. Tasks, meals, activities and sleep shouldn’t vary much, even over summer break. Keeping a consistent routine can help make the transition back to school less stressful and easier to manage for you and your child.

Have a plan in place

As school approaches, proactive dialogue with school nursing and diabetes care providers can help ensure appropriate plans are in place to best manage the challenges school may present. Information regarding before- and after-school care, snack time, lunch time, P.E. schedule and other daily activities can be extremely helpful to your child’s diabetes care provider. The more information you share with them, the more they can help you and your child prepare.

Work together to build a plan for tackling low and high blood sugars, accommodating for testing, administering insulin at lunch and snack time, exercising and any other obstacles that may come up.

Frequent communication

Regular communication with your child’s school nurses and teachers is critical. They are an integral part of caring for your child during school, especially if your child is still young. As a parent, be available to help address questions or concerns. Meet with the school staff to make sure they are aware of the plan of care, and touch base regularly to ensure that the school is equipped with all necessary supplies and that your child’s diabetes care plan is working well.

Supplies for a Type 1 diabetic could include extra insulin, test strips, glucagon, water bottles, glucose tablets, ketone testing strips and other items your child might need in an emergency. Be sure and speak to your child’s diabetes care provider about what items might be needed at school.

At school, your child’s focus should be on learning, not on managing their disease. The key is to work together with your child’s diabetes care provider and school staff to make sure this school year is a healthy one.

About the Author

Matthew Stephen, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children's Medical Center. Dr. Stephen has a passion for diabetes care fueled in part by his personal experience living with Type 1 diabetes for over 30 years. Outside of his clinical duties, Dr. Stephen serves as Medical Director for Camp Bluebonnet, a weeklong day camp for children with Type 1 diabetes, held each June at Peaceable Kingdom Retreat for children in central Texas.

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