A Common Goal: Safe At School

Parents and schools have the same goal: to ensure that students with diabetes are safe at school and that both health and learning are fully supported. When conflicts about care at school arise, it is often because parents and schools have different understandings about one or more of the following:

  • how poorly managed diabetes can endanger a child's health or limit educational opportunities
  • how (and where) diabetes care tasks can be safely performed
  • legal protections for students with diabetes

Teaching Others

One of the most important roles of a parent of a child with diabetes is that of an educator. Whenever the child is in the care of other adults—at school, at grandma's, at the neighbor's or at the soccer practice, it is the parent's responsibility to make sure that those who are supervising the child have the information they need to provide the right support and accommodations.

Schools can't compare to parents when it comes to meeting the unique needs of a child with diabetes. Fortunately, with the right support from parents and health care providers, school staff can learn how to ensure the child's safety and success in school.

Listening to Learn

Parents need to be ready to teach, but also ready to learn. By listening carefully, misunderstandings or challenges can be addressed promptly and effectively.

Becoming an Advocate

When a child has diabetes or other special needs, parents will often find themselves having to "speak up" or advocate to ensure their child's needs are met.
However, some parents are uncomfortable in the role of advocate for various reasons.

  • Some don't know where to start; they don't know what schools can do for students with an illness or disability.
  • Some think it's wrong to "question" a school professional.
  • Some are emotionally overwhelmed, and may fear an angry or tearful outburst.
  • Some lack confidence that their efforts will pay off and give up without trying.
  • Some don't want to seem aggressive, pushy or like they are just trying to get their way.

Being an advocate for a student with diabetes is not about winning or losing. It's about working together with schools and health care professionals to ensure a safe, healthy environment so diabetes doesn't get in the way of learning and participation.

Often, when misunderstandings or disagreements arise, education alone, can make it right.

When Education Is Not Enough

However, sometimes, education is not enough. Then an advocate needs alternate strategies to resolve conflict. The American Diabetes Association recommends education as a primary strategy for resolving conflicts. However, when efforts through education fail, then parents need to carefully evaluate the situation and consider other strategies, including negotiation, litigation, and legislation.
Explore more about what it means to be a diabetes advocate in schools, and learn about these ADA advocacy strategies on behalf of students with diabetes.
ADA Legal Advocacy Strategies:

If you are facing diabetes care challenges at your child's school, call 1-800 DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) for the Association's packet on Education Discrimination.

Here are some other resources to help you advocate on behalf of your child.

  • Your School Your Rights (PDF) - An informational brochure to help you understand the rights of children with diabetes and what you can do to make sure your child receives fair treatment.
    (Also available in Spanish)
  • Advocating for the Child with Diabetes
    Article by William Clarke, MD providing examples of how to resolve conflicts surrounding diabetes school care issues and the importance of advocating on behalf of students with diabetes.
  • Last Reviewed: October 8, 2013
  • Last Edited: April 4, 2014

Articles from Diabetes Forecast® magazine:

Diabetes Forecast