Back-to-School with Kovler

Back to school season is a stressful time for every family, but perhaps even more so for families with children who have diabetes. Whether your child is heading to kindergarten or entering their freshman year of college, here are some helpful tips to navigate the legal, logistical, and social challenges that come with starting a new school year.

For younger kids, it is not always clearly defined how your child will receive the necessary diabetes care during the school day. This is why it is important to work with your Kovler Diabetes Center care providers to create a Diabetes Medical Management Plan. This document outlines the specifics of a child’s diabetes care plan at school: how often they need to test blood glucose levels, which tasks the child usually performs independently, how they typically display signs of high or low blood sugar, the methods by which the child typically corrects variances in blood sugar, etc.

It is also essential to establish a 504 Plan—named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which requires schools to provide equal opportunities to individuals with disabilities. This plan will specify which staff members at your child’s school will be trained to provide diabetes care both during the school day and during after school activities, including on the bus ride home. This document should also outline an individualized plan that considers the student’s needs during tests, gym class, lunch, classroom parties, etc., and establishes planned breaks for blood glucose testing during the school day with the necessary frequency required to keep the student healthy.

Younger kids may also face social challenges related to their peers’ lack of understanding of diabetes. Offer to go in and teach the class about diabetes and how they can help their schoolmate stay healthy. This can eliminate the fear some kids have of “catching” diabetes and ensure that your child has a couple extra “buddies” who are watching out for them at school.

For older kids going off to college, it may seem as though their ability to self manage their diabetes relieves the university of legal responsibilities surrounding the student’s diabetes care. This is not true! While it is the student’s responsibility to self identify as diabetic to the school’s students with disabilities office, the student has the legal right to request reasonable accommodations related to their disease, such as extended breaks between sections of exams to check their blood sugar. The disabilities office may also have helpful resources to offer, such as information on how to join diabetes support groups on campus.

However, the biggest challenge for most college students with diabetes is how to manage their disease well when faced with radical changes in lifestyle: the all-you-can-eat cafeteria food, staying up late to cram for exams, and the social pressures to drink excessively or try other substances. Furthermore, the stresses of being in a new environment, hanging out with new people, and trying to do well in school can cause changes in the body that raise glucose levels and throw off even the most finely tuned diabetes care routine. As the pressures of college can affect each person differently, it is important for college students to work closely with their Kovler team to discuss challenges and to develop a modified plan for diabetes care that integrates well into the student’s new lifestyle. Many of our doctors and diabetes educators are even available to answer questions via email and text message!

No matter your child’s age, it is possible for them to go back to school safe, confident, and ready to learn! If you need any help, do not hesitate to contact us here at the Kovler Diabetes Center at 773.702.2371 or diabetes@uchospitals.edu. You can also find more information about going back to school with diabetes from the ADA at www.diabetes.org, from the National Diabetes Education Program at www.ndep.nih.gov, and from JDRF at www.jdrf.org.