By David Silva
When your child has diabetes, it plays a major role in his or her life. Your child’s normal routine, good habits and bad habits, forgetfulness and outright disregard for things that should be done, can all be supervised at home. But at school, you don’t have that same control. You have to trust that your diabetic child and the people around him or her will do what’s necessary to make sure your child’s health isn’t at risk.
Here are a few suggestions to help you balance your child’s diabetic needs with his or her school environment.
1. Before your child heads off to school, it’s vital to prepare teachers, classmates, and school officials. First, they need to know what diabetes is and the potential situations that may arise for a diabetic child. Second, the school nurse, teachers, and school officials should have a plan in place for any emergencies that may arise as a result of your child’s diabetes.
2. While childhood diabetes has seen a growing number of Type II cases, the majority of children with diabetes have Type I diabetes, which can require insulin shots throughout the day. In most cases, these can be self administered. However, teachers and school officials need to be aware of how often such shots should be administered and be prepared to allow a time and place for your child to receive his or her insulin shots.
3. Teachers, in particular, need to have a heightened awareness of the subtleties of diabetes. Requests by your child for a drink of water or a snack or the need to use the restroom should be taken seriously.
4. The decision to inform your child’s classmates of his or her diabetes is a personal one. If such a disclosure is made, it should be presented in as positive a light as possible. For instance, you or another family member may want to do a short presentation to the class about diabetes and potential diabetes emergencies. Make sure the presentation is kept simple to understand, covers the basics of blood sugar and insulin and the need to supplement the body’s needs with insulin shots, and allows the children to ask questions.
5. Help classmates, teachers and school officials understand that low blood sugar can cause unusual behavior in a diabetic. Your child may display unusual anger, become grouchy or headachy, fall asleep unexpectedly, or become confused about simple things. In such instances, the teacher or school nurse must recognize the signs and offer your child fruit juice, a piece of candy or soda pop to help bring his or her blood sugar level up.
6. If you haven’t already, you need to educate your child on how to recognize the various signs inside his or her body that something isn’t quite right. These can include tiredness, becoming shaky, feeling butterflies in the stomach, sweating, or feeling as if the blood is draining from your child’s head. Again, these are subtle signs that your child’s blood sugar level is dropping and he or she needs a small snack to bring it back under control.
School plays an important role in every child’s life. It’s no different for a diabetic child. You can help make your diabetic child’s school experience as safe and normal as possible by preparing teachers, classmates and school officials to deal with the complications of this disease. Your diabetic child has the same dreams and interests as other children. There’s no reason diabetes should prevent him or her from living a relatively normal school life.