Dr Kate Gajewska
Clinical Manager for Advocacy and Research, Diabetes Ireland
School time for parents, children, and teachers can be a fantastic experience. But it has its challenges if a pupil was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. See the advice on how to smoothly start the school year.
Back to school means organising books, uniforms, school lunches, and much more. For children with diabetes, it also means managing or changing insulin regimes and thinking about blood glucose monitoring. The younger the child, the more engagement from the school staff is expected, often including Special Needs Assistants (SNA) in helping with glucose monitoring and/or insulin delivery and being prepared for low glucose levels (hypoglycaemia). The challenge is greater if a child starts a new class or school and the teachers are not familiar with diabetes.
Preparation for a learning environment
Knowing that it can be an anxious time for everybody, Diabetes Ireland prepared some tips and tools to help. Our ‘Back to School’ resources prepared sections for teachers, school staff, and parents. It includes tips on how to prepare the school and what to expect, explains type 1 diabetes and diabetes management, provides information on special needs assistance, gives tips on healthy lunchtime snacks, and how to provide a child with mental health support.
The challenge is greater if a child starts a new class or school and the teachers are not familiar with diabetes.
Staying informed and involved
It is important to engage positively with the school and ensure that teachers understand the condition and how to act appropriately. To improve communication and preparation, the ‘Meeting the Care Needs of Primary School Children with Type 1 Diabetes during School Hours’ guideline was released earlier this year. The HSE document helps structure the conversation and preparations between the family, diabetes team, and school staff.
It provides several tools and easy-to-follow actions to help in understanding type 1 diabetes and diabetes management and sets out clear lines of responsibility for all partners. It also helps to determine the need for non-teaching support and presents different levels of support needs for children with diabetes based on age and diabetes management skills.
It is a tremendous resource for ensuring the safety of children with diabetes and their happiness in school and the classroom.