Back2School with Type 1 Diabetes
Back to school is always a stressful time. The question of does my son have what he needs for school changed when he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when he was in the 1st grade. No longer am I worrying ONLY about pencils, crayons and backpacks. Added on to that is low supplies, insulin and glucagon. In class vs nurse’s office. On person vs at teacher’s desk. Is he the first student in this school? The fear of the lack of knowledge amongst staff starts to grow. There is so much you have to think about that goes beyond your child’s 504.
When my child was diagnosed he was only 6 and the first student in his school to ever have Type 1.
We were stationed overseas in Germany and had the BEST nurse. Due to his age and the pump being used, there was no information being sent to the phone. My job at the time was a substitute teacher so I had an idea of what I wanted for him. Most of his low supplies were in the nurse’s office with only a small bag of stuff in his classroom. It made sense and the nurse was always checking on him. I did, however, create a packet for the teacher to have. It included his picture, a basic overview of Type 1, pictures with a description of all of his gear that was on his body (to avoid anyone EVER asking him to lift clothing) so that they understood what it all did. Again, no one had ever had diabetes in this school. I wanted to get ahead of ignorance and focus on any issues I could foresee. Plus, as a sub I would want to know who the student was. So the cover just had his picture and general information.This worked amazing for his time in elementary school. The only issues we had was a substitute teacher who refused to read it and then denied him access to the nurse and another teacher who thought it was pointless. She refused to use it and threw it away. This is where moving due to being a military family causes more hiccups than others experience.
Each container introduces the student with their photo and the following text:
Hi, I'm [FIRST NAME LAST NAME]
I'm a Type 1 Diabetic
*PLEASE IDENTIFY ME*
Once my son hit middle school I knew I had to redo our school supplies. He now would have 7 teachers. Different floors. He would also have more independence. He carries a sling backpack that has his Omnipod controller, low supplies and his glucagon. I wanted to make something for
each teacher that still had the identifying picture and basic information needed to educate his teachers and what I would want as a substitute teacher. Also those necessary low supplies should we fail to restock when his pack’s supply was used up (which of course has happened). So I googled. I pinterested. I read articles about giving your student independence. With everything I read and saw I decided to use those cheap plastic pencil boxes that I found at Target. I could afford to buy.7 of them. Best part was that two juice boxes and a pile of smarties and chocolate fit perfectly! His pump had changed since the first school year so with the Omnipod he had less to explain and had the use of his phone, but info was still needed for the teachers but could be condensed. So I (with the aid of my husband) came up with an info sheet the size of the pencil box. It contained his photo, name, grade and the important words “PLEASE IDENTIFY ME” on one side and the other had a quick explanation of what he might do in class. Alarms, pricking his finger if there’s a Dexcom failure, the use of his phone and his personal traits when low or high. Not all kids show their lows and highs the same. I added at the bottom “LOW BLOOD SUGAR CAN BE DANGEROUS” AND “If I am CONFUSED or LOSE CONSCIOUSNESS CALL THE OFFICE IMMEDIATELY.” This summer that just ended, I read an article about a NHL player who keeps fruit snacks (a certain brand that has a carb count that is lower than the rest- 17g) on the bench. So while we were having our summer fun, we tried that out with our preteen son. His needs have gone up so figured it was worth a try. It worked perfectly with those straight down arrow lows during physical activity (activity mode on the Omnipod 5 can only do so much). So for PE this year I have added a zippered pencil pouch (the kind that goes in a binder that has the window). I taped the info sheet to the inside and filled it with fruit snacks. Now his teachers might ignore their existence - but I know I’ve done as much as I can to keep my son in class for the most possible time and hopefully keeping him safe with knowledgeable staff. We can only do so much and that’s the hard part.
The nurse still has a bin with his supplies as well. Our 2nd awesome school nurse suggested it and we love it. It’s a double stacked art/craft bin. The bottom has all medical supplies - the ketone test strips, extra test strips, glucagon, pods, tape, IV prep wipes, etc. The top is full of smarties, small Reese's cups, juice boxes and the new addition of fruit snacks. All carried around by one handle. Quick to get to those emergencies. Shortens time in the office and more time back in the classroom.
We all just want our kids to be safe, have what they need and to be able to learn. And for us Type 1 mommas there’s a lot of extra work to do. But we got this.