School and Diabetes
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School and Diabetes

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD

Most schools are prepared to help their students with diabetes. But parents also should be part of the process. This means meeting with school staff, giving them the information they need, and making sure that your child knows how to manage diabetes away from home.

Your child's diabetes health care team can help. And school administrators and nurses often have experience in helping kids with diabetes participate safely and successfully at school.

Working With the School

Most of what you use to care for your child at home is needed at school. This includes:

  • a specific diabetes management plan
  • diabetes medicines
  • testing supplies
  • snacks

You might put these into packages for teachers, the school nurse, coaches, your child, and others.

At school, kids might need to:

  • check their blood sugar levels
  • take insulin or other diabetes medicines
  • eat snacks as needed
  • eat lunch at a certain time, with plenty of time to finish
  • have easy access to water and time for bathroom breaks
  • get physical activity and participate in school events like field trips
  • recognize and get treatment for low blood sugar episodes

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends giving the school a packet with general diabetes information, including how to recognize and treat hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, as well as the management plan. Also include contact information for you, other caregivers, your child's doctor, and other members of the diabetes health care team.

To keep the school staff informed, consider reviewing your child's diabetes management plan with the school annually — or whenever it is updated or changed.

You might also want to meet with school staff, such as the principal, your child's teachers (including the gym teacher), the school nurse, and any coaches. They will tell you if they need anything else from you.

Diabetes, School, and the Law

By law, diabetes is considered a disability. So it is illegal for schools or childcare centers to discriminate against kids who have it.

Any school that receives federal funding or any facility considered open to the public must reasonably accommodate the special needs of children with diabetes. Teachers and school nurses assess kids individually to find the best ways to ensure their education while managing the diabetes.

The school may be required to create a legal document called a 504 plan that describes how it will meet a child's needs. You might also get an individualized education plan (IEP) that outlines educational goals and how the school will achieve them.

The school needs to meet your child's needs within the usual school or classroom setting with as little disruption as possible. This helps prevent kids from feeling different from their peers. The school also must meet your child's needs during activities outside the classroom, such as sports teams or extracurricular clubs.

Some schools have all the staff that's needed to ensure proper care for kids with diabetes, but others might not. For example, many schools share a nurse with other schools in the district rather than having one available all the time. Be sure that your school addresses how the staff will meet your child's needs in the classroom and during activities such as field trips.

Your child has a right to private health information, according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). But to meet a student's special needs, school officials and the diabetes health care team might need to share medical information.

Ask the diabetes health care team and school officials if they will share information and how to ensure your child's privacy. Your doctor and the school might need written permission from you to exchange this information. This is important because if a problem happens, the school staff may need to get information about your child's health quickly.

Preparing Your Child

Parents often feel nervous about sending a child with diabetes off to school. It's important to educate kids about diabetes without passing along feelings of fear or nervousness. Kids should understand how to monitor and treat the disease based on their age and maturity.

While at school, kids with diabetes should:

  • know who to contact for help, such as a teacher, nurse, or coach
  • know how to handle lunchtime and other eating situations
  • have all the supplies and snacks needed to manage diabetes easily

Your child should tell you about any issues related to diabetes management at school. Be sure that you ask things are going.

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2018