Q: Our 6-year-old daughter is going on her first all-day field trip with her class since being diagnosed. Do I need to chaperone?
A: Field trips are an extension of the school environment, and it's reasonable for parents to expect that accommodations will be made to care for their child's type 1 diabetes. In a perfect world, this would mean the school nurse coming along and maintaining oversight of your child's blood glucose levels.
The reality? How field trips are handled for children with type 1 diabetes varies widely from state to state, and even between school districts. Larger districts may have the staff availability to make sure a school nurse (or another staff member trained in type 1 care) accompanies your child's class and manages testing and insulin dosing responsibilities. In private schools or smaller districts where there might be only one school nurse, this option isn't always available. In that case, responsibility could fall on your shoulders.
To find out what to expect from your daughter's school, ask about field trip accommodation plans, ideally well in advance of the day permission slips are actually sent home. Although most schools only take a small handful of trips during the year, this is still a relevant topic to bring up during a back-to-school meeting or 504 Plan meeting. If you know in September that her class is to visit the planetarium in June and the school can't commit to having the nurse there, it will make planning on your part a little bit easier, whether this means taking a day off from work or arranging to have your spouse (or a relative knowledgeable about your child's care) onboard to chaperone.
Whether it's you or someone else, the adult in charge of your child during the field trip should pack all the supplies needed for the day, including testing and insulin dosing supplies, snacks and a water bottle, fast-absorbing carbohydrates (i.e., juice and glucose tabs) in case of low blood sugar, emergency medical contact information and a cell phone. If the school nurse is attending, don't hesitate to check in right before the trip to verify what supplies will be brought and to make sure emergency contact information is complete and up-to-date.
What's your daughter's responsibility on the trip? The same as every other child in the class: to enjoy the excitement of a day away from the school building and to hopefully learn something new and interesting. Field trips are all about confidence and fun! Because this is your child's first field trip since her diagnosis, it's okay to test her sugar and make sure she's feeling okay, but otherwise step back and let her enjoy this "normal kid" moment for all it's worth.
For more info, visit the American Diabetes Association's Safe at School program website.
-- Jennifer Rein, MSW, LICSW, is a social worker and type 1 diabetes care team member at Children's Hospital Boston.
Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.