Q: Our daughter’s teacher is experiencing health issues that will require her to be out fairly frequently over the next few months. How can we make sure that rotating substitute teachers who come in will know how to take care of our daughter?
A: A good first step, if you haven’t done so already, is to carefully check over the individualized care plan you and your child’s school worked out to address how your daughter’s type 1 diabetes is to be managed during the school day. If the current plan does not adequately address the issue of substitute teachers, contact the school nurse or principal to discuss what information should be added in light of this changing situation.
At minimum, any sub should know how to recognize and respond to a low and be aware of who to contact (typically the school nurse) in case of emergency. Even if your child’s care plan already contains this kind of language, it’s still a good idea to touch base just to make sure everyone is advised that, before placement in your child’s classroom, the subs receive appropriate training as well as needed information about such issues as when your child should report to the nurse’s office for blood sugar checks.
In some districts, especially in small schools without a school nurse, teachers often take on some of the child’s care tasks themselves, including blood sugar checks. It may be easier over the next few months to request that another school staff member, such as a teacher in a nearby classroom or the office secretary, be made a point person concerning your child’s care. Because almost everyone misses a day of work over the course of the year, it’s helpful anyway to always make sure that more than one staff member knows how to check blood sugar and respond to highs and lows.
Whatever substitute procedures you come up with, get them in writing as part of your child's care plan. In the end, hopefully all will be well with your child’s teacher, and the school year will go on as normal. In the meantime, a little planning can go a long way toward helping to make sure your child’s health is in good hands, no matter who is in charge.
--Naznin M. Dixit, M.D., is professor and chief of pediatric endocrinology and diabetes at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Batson Children's Hospital in Jackson, Miss.
How Other Parents Deal
“I put together a sub folder for my son’s teacher to leave on her desk in case she’s ever absent. It’s bright neon orange and includes checklists of what our child needs to do over the course of the school day, symptoms of a low, and what to do in case of emergency. I taped a photo of him to the cover for easier identification.”
--Tamara W., mom of 6-year-old Andrew
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