Who better to give Tips for a Great T1D School Year than an experienced D-mom? That’s why we asked PEP Squad member Jeanette Collier to offer up her best advice, just in time to alleviate the back-to-school madness. Her son, Cedric, 14, was diagnosed with type 1 at age 10, so Jeanette is well-versed in dealing with teachers, school nurses and administration, plus 504 plans and more.
1. Type 1 diabetes management plan
Put a plan in place well before school starts or as soon as possible. A 504 Plan sets out the actions the school will take to make sure the student is medically safe, has the same access to education as other children, and is treated fairly. Public schools and schools that receive federal funding are prohibited from discriminating against people with type 1 diabetes. Download a model 504 Plan here>
2. Introductory email or letter
A personal note to staff is a great way to begin open communication between parent and staff. A short explanation of your child’s condition, along with your concerns and expectations will be much welcomed. Ask staff to please contact you with any questions or concerns they might have during the year.
3. Drop off supplies at school
Schedule a time to drop off supplies and to meet with the school nurse or caregiver to briefly discuss the school year ahead. In addition to MDI or insulin pump supplies, you’ll need to stock fast-acting carbs for low blood sugar. Discuss where supplies are to be kept (items such as meters and carbs might be kept in multiple locations: nurse’s office, locker, backpack, classroom, etc.) Personal advice for pump users — I make sure syringes are on hand to pull insulin from pump reservoir in the event of pump failure.
4. Have a discussion with your child
Discuss age-appropriate expectations of your child. Cover possible scenarios and how to handle them (how to express when they don’t feel good, bullying, bathroom breaks, mood swings, missed assignments). If your child is going to monitor his or her blood sugar, ensure that he or she feels comfortable doing so. If a trained school employee will do the monitoring, be sure your child knows where and when to go for testing.
5. Email staff about T1 related absences
Send a a gentle reminder to staff so they know that your child has health reasons for being absent more than other students. Explain that you don’t expect extraordinary accommodations for your child but just enough for an even playing field. This dialogue ensures the staff that you don’t intend to abuse the system.
6. How to handle negative incidents
It’s difficult to keep emotions aside when it comes to defending our children, however, they get in the way of optimal resolution. If an alleged incident occurs, the best way to get down to the facts and facilitate a positive outcome is to remain calm and focused when discussing the incident with staff. Don’t burn any bridges until you’re certain there was unacceptable negligence. The staff is human and susceptible to mistakes, insufficient knowledge or bad judgement calls. It’s in everyone’s best interest to work together in this journey, including bumps along the way.
7. End-of-year thank you notes
Because we often times only think of complaining about the negative, we forget to acknowledge when things go well. Unless your child’s school year experience was unacceptable, a thank you note goes a long way in letting staff know that their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. It also sends the message that providing a safe and positive environment for children with disabilities, invisible or not, helps build their self esteem, academically and personally.
WRITTEN BY: Jeanette Collier, mother of Cedric, 14 (diagnosed with T1D at age 10)