It’s Aug. 1, which means the crisp fall days of a new school year are fast approaching. While children across the country are picking up new Superman backpacks and Sponge Bob Square Pants lunch boxes, the families of kids with diabetes have a longer list of supplies to gather, tasks to complete and concerns to address.
An estimated 215,000 children in the United States live with diabetes. With a chronic disease that must be managed 24/7—including the many hours spent at school, on field trips and in extracurricular activities—these children are put at serious risk if no one is present at school to help with daily and emergency diabetes care when a school nurse isn’t present.
In an attempt to reduce these risks and ease parents’ worry that their child won’t have proper diabetes care at school, the American Diabetes Association created its Safe at School® campaign. Through this initiative, the Association is dedicated to making sure that all children with diabetes are medically safe at school and have the same educational opportunities as their peers, because no student should run into obstacles simply because of his or her diabetes.
We do this by offering the tools needed to provide diabetes care at school, helping families and school personnel to develop plans to prevent problems from occurring and by providing expert help and guidance to families. When problems do occur, we have a team of dedicated lawyers, health care professionals and other advocates ready to find solutions.
We know that scrambling for information at this time of year can be hectic, so here’s a brief back -to-school checklist for starting your child’s year off on the right foot:
1. Stay informed. Federal and many state laws protect students with diabetes and their families against discrimination and set out the legal responsibilities of the school. To learn about these laws, as well as available training resources and tips for resolving challenges in school, see diabetes.org/schooldiscrimination.
2. Put together a draft Section 504 Plan or Individualized Education Program (IEP). Section 504 of the Rehabilitation of 1973 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on disability, including diabetes. These plans should be drafted when a child enters school or is newly diagnosed to ensure he or she will have the same opportunities and education as children without diabetes, in accordance with federal law. Get schooled on 504 plans with this article from Diabetes Forecast magazine. You can also see a sample 504 Plan at diabetes.org/504plan.
3. Make sure you have a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP). This plan, developed by your child’s health care team, provides essential information on how school personnel should care for your child. It also explains when your child can manage diabetes care independently and when he or she requires more help from a trained adult. Click here for a sample DMMP.
4. Meet with school staff to discuss the DMMP and come to agreement on the Section 504 Plan or IEP. These documents must specify who will provide diabetes care for your child. They ensure there is always someone available who has been trained to provide routine care for children who need help with tasks such as checking blood glucose and administering insulin, as well as emergency care, such as administering glucagon.
Curious to learn more about your child’s legal rights and how to best prepare to send your child back to school? The Association will hold a free Back to School Parent Advocacy Webinar on Aug. 15, at 7 p.m. EDT. You’ll learn more about Safe at School, strategies to resolve common school diabetes care problems, federal and state law protections, available resources and how to get involved. You’ll also hear from parents who have been there—not only on behalf of their own children, but by working with many other families to help keep kids with diabetes safe at school. Register now.
Free access to the recorded webinar will be available at http://www.diabetes.org/safeatschool shortly after the event.
To learn more about Safe at School and how you can help keep your child with diabetes medically safe, visit http://diabetes.org/safeatschool or call 1-800-DIABETES for information and help.
Donate to Safe at School today! Your gift will help us continue the fight to protect all kids with diabetes in the school setting. It will also help us continue vital diabetes research for a cure, and provide diabetes education, advocacy and community programs for people living with diabetes.