From the first day they board the big yellow bus, kids spend almost a third of their waking hours in the classroom. So it's no wonder that diabetes management in school is a huge priority—and concern—for parents. Fortunately, a document called a 504 Plan can be created to help ensure that your school knows what your child needs.
Children with diabetes are protected by federal law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This means that after developing a medical management plan with your child's healthcare provider, you can arrange for services for your child through written agreements with the school known as a Section 504 Plan or an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). (However, if your child goes to a private school, it may not be required to comply with Section 504 if it doesn't receive federal funds or services. Check with school administrators to find out.)
It's important to know that your child has a right to the same access to education as children without diabetes. A 504 Plan spells out how this will be accomplished by your particular school, based on your child's individual needs. For example, a 504 Plan for a child with diabetes might include agreements that he or she will be allowed to: do blood sugar checks; treat hypoglycemia; inject insulin when necessary; eat snacks when necessary; eat lunch at an appropriate time and have enough time to finish the meal; have free and unrestricted access to water and the bathroom; and participate fully in physical education class and other extracurricular activities, including field trips. Individual states may have additional laws regulating the education of children with diabetes.
Moira McCarthy, whose daughter has type 1 diabetes, says, "My daughter was diagnosed with type 1 at the beginning of kindergarten. I realized quickly that you need to get your school on your team. A lot of people don't understand type 1, so you need to get a 504 in place as soon as possible."
Here are McCarthy's additional top seven tips:
Sending your child off on his or her own for the day can be daunting for any parent. But by working together with teachers, administrators, school nurses, and the diabetes care team, and following these pointers, school can be a happy—and healthy—place for your child with type 1 diabetes.
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the "typical" experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring.
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