Managing Diabetes and School

Whether a child was just diagnosed with diabetes this summer, or has had diabetes for years, now that the school year is well underway, many families have questions about school resources available for children with diabetes. It can be frightening for parents to send their children off to school with a health issue, such as type 1 diabetes, that requires round-the-clock care. Students have a right to safe diabetes care in school and this right is backed by state and federal laws. Now is a great time to review some of the systems in place to help keep kids with diabetes safe at school.

School Nurses

The central resource at school for children with diabetes is the school nurse. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction provides support and education for school nurses across the state who are responsible for monitoring chronic health conditions including diabetes, seizures, allergies and asthma. While some districts have only one nurse for all their schools and others have more than one nurse in each school, most school nurses work together with other school staff—teachers, principals, aides, secretaries and counselors—to make sure children have their health needs met at school. It is important for you and your child to know who the members of the school health team are. Depending on the child’s age, diabetes management plan and individual abilities, comfort and independence, the level of supervision and support needed from the school health team may vary. Some kids see the nurse every day at lunch, some more than that, while others visit just to check in every few months.

Diabetes School Orders

Whether your child’s school has a nurse or other staff member designated to meet health needs, they need diabetes school orders. An individualized plan is key to meeting the needs of each child—our goal is to maximize inclusion in the learning, physical education, field trips and recreational activities at school. Some kids have a variety of technologic devices such as a sensor (continuous glucose monitor) or pump. Others have pens or syringes to dose their insulin. The care team at AFCH can send individualized orders directly to schools. Beyond these orders, on-going communication between parents, school health teams and the AFCH diabetes team is valuable to clarify questions that come up as well as strengthen the relationship you and your family have with your supports and health teams. Make sure the health office knows how best to reach you, and the types of things you should be contacted about. Additionally, our school liaison works with families and schools to tailor a healthy school life for children.

Planning Ahead

Find out when your child has gym class, recess, meals and snacks scheduled, and work with the school health team to design a plan that allows safe monitoring of sugar trends and insulin dosing. Have a plan for treatment of both high and low sugars, as well as when family should be contacted. Ask what qualified staff member(s) go on field trips and who will be responsible for diabetes care. When age-appropriate, and if comfortable for your child, encourage him or her to teach peers about diabetes.

Other Resources

For recently diagnosed families: Returning to School with Type 1 Diabetes

The American Diabetes Association has great resources for families and schools alike.

Beyondtype1.org provides guides that are tailored to specific school situations and personnel.

CareLink: Starting in the 2019-2020 school year in the Madison Metropolitan School District, families can choose to give their school nurses access to view the child’s UW Health electronic medical record, including diabetes school orders, through CareLink. Ask your diabetes clinic team or school nurse for details. You can learn more about CareLink here.