Back to School for Kids with Diabetes Requires Homework and Planning

Alexandria, Virginia
July 27, 2015

As parents get ready to send their kids back to school this fall, those whose children have diabetes have more than book bags and school supplies to get organized: It's time to review and plan for how their children's diabetes management needs will be met while they are at school.

"Diabetes is a disease that must be managed 24/7," said American Diabetes Association Safe at School Working Group Co-Chair Linda Siminerio, RN, PhD, CDE. "Failure to do so can result in serious short- and long-term medical complications. It's therefore imperative that every student with diabetes has a plan in place to meet their diabetes needs at school as well as off site, during field trips and at all school-sponsored activities."

Parents should reach out to schools before classes start to write and update diabetes care plans, make sure the school has ample supplies, meet with the school nurse, administrators and other school staff responsible for providing care, and become familiar with federal and state laws that provide legal protections to students with diabetes, she said.

With more than 208,000 children under the age of 20 living with diabetes in the United States, the American Diabetes Association (Association) is raising awareness through its Safe at School campaign to highlight the importance of ensuring all children are able to have access to proper diabetes care during the school day and at all school-sponsored activities so they can remain medically safe and healthy while learning. One way the Association meets this goal is through its state legislation and regulatory efforts. To date, 30 states have laws in place ensuring children with diabetes have access to proper care at school; other states, such as Maryland, are considering this type of legislation.

"Having a full-time school nurse is a great start, but what we're really talking about here is having other school staff trained to provide needed care because even a full-time school nurse can't be everywhere at all times," said Siminerio. "In some cases, as with older children, the student may be able to self-manage his or her diabetes, but sometimes state laws or policies place barriers to care calling for the need to change those laws."

States such as Arkansas and Hawaii recently passed legislation that allows school staff to volunteer to be trained to administer insulin and glucagon and allows capable students to self-manage their diabetes. States with laws containing these provisions - coupled with federal protections - enhance the ability of schools to provide effective diabetes care to students.

Jane K. Kadohiro, DrPH, a Certified Diabetes Educator, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and advocate who led the effort to pass Safe at School legislation in Hawaii, said having this legislation in place is an important first step, but now parents and schools must work together to ensure the continuity in care that the law requires is being provided, by identifying those teachers and other school staff willing to be trained to provide back-up care. "Teachers and other volunteers can be trained to do a fine job," she said, "especially if parents and diabetes educators are available for consultation during the training process. Teaching a teacher or a volunteer is no different than teaching parents how to maintain diabetes control for their children."

The Association and the Safe at School campaign are committed to achieving effective school-based diabetes management for all children living with diabetes. But unfortunately, not all school systems are the same, and problems with access to diabetes care at school can occur. To address these problems, the Association provides a network of dedicated lawyers, health care professionals and Diabetes Advocates who can assist families and schools with implementing practical and safe solutions to diabetes school care issues.

About the American Diabetes Association

More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, and every 21 seconds another person is diagnosed with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association (Association) is the global authority on diabetes and since 1940 has been committed to its mission to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. To tackle this global public health crisis, the Association drives discovery in research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and provides support and advocacy for people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes and the health care professionals who serve them. For more information, please call the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETESS (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn)