(BPT) – Children begin each school year excited about making new friends, and learning new things. But children living with diabetes and their families may also feel uncertain or uneasy about how their diabetes will be managed throughout the school day.
For parents of the more than 200,000 children younger than 20 living with diabetes, having a plan in place before the school year even begins will ensure their children have access to the diabetes care they need every day. The American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School campaign helps both parents and schools prepare to safely send children with diabetes back to school each fall. The campaign strives to ensure children with diabetes are medically safe during school-sponsored activities, and have the same educational opportunities as their classmates.
“When a nurse is not present, and there is no trained staff to provide diabetes care, children are placed in a medically dangerous situation,” says Linda Siminerio, a registered nurse and co-chairperson of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Working Group. “Having a set plan in place at the beginning of the school year helps ensure a child living with diabetes always has access to the daily and life-saving emergency care they need to stay safe and healthy at school.”
Through the Safe at School campaign, parents can access resources and assistance with a writing a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) and a Section 504 Plan. A DMMP, (a physician’s order), sets out a child’s diabetes care regimen while in the school setting and provides the foundation for the development of a child’s 504 Plan or IEP. Parents can then work with the school nurse, 504 Plan coordinator and other school staff to make sure each staff member understands his or her roles and responsibilities to meet a child’s needs, as contained in the child’s written plans.
In addition, the campaign works to educate and provide training resources to school personnel and parents on how to effectively meet the needs of children with diabetes and provides strategies for fixing problems when they occur. According to the Association, effective school-based diabetes management requires three things:
1. Basic diabetes training for all staff
All school staff members who have responsibility for a child with diabetes should receive training that provides a basic understanding of the disease and the child’s needs, how to identify medical emergencies, and which school staff members to contact with questions or in case of an emergency.
2. Shared responsibilities for care, with leadership by school nurses
The school nurse holds the primary role of coordinating, monitoring and supervising the care of a student with diabetes. However, in addition to a school nurse, a small group of school staff members should volunteer to receive training to provide routine and emergency diabetes care, so that someone is always available for younger or less experienced students who require assistance with their diabetes management and for all children with diabetes in case of an emergency, including administration of glucagon.
3. Self management is allowed in all school settings for students with capacity
Children possessing the necessary skills to do so should be permitted to self-manage their disease in the classroom or wherever they are in conjunction with a school-related activity. Such self-management should include monitoring blood glucose and responding to blood glucose levels with needed food and medication.