Raising a Child with Diabetes: Going to School

Raising a Child with Diabetes: Going to School

Bringing your first-born child home from the hospital is a scary experience. As a new parent you have fears that your baby will stop breathing in the middle of the night, will get sick from germs, the way others hold them, and many other fears; some rational, some not.

However, bringing a child newly diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes home from the hospital was even scarier for this mom.

After spending four days in the hospital with my son learning all we could about the condition and how to manage it, we were released from the hospital with a list of things to purchase to help make the transition easier and a stack of prescriptions that would need to be renewed year after year. I remember feeling so overwhelmed with fear that I could barely breathe. The list of changes we had to make in our daily routines seemed endless and calculating the insulin my son would need was stressful to think about.

We were released mid-morning, which meant that lunch was right around the corner and with a two-hour drive to make it home it also meant that lunch would be a stop along the way. It would mean a finger poke and a shot in a restaurant. It would also mean we had to put in practice everything we had just learned about carbohydrate counting, food measurements and calculating insulin needs.

I worried that I wouldn’t remember everything and something that I forgot would cause my child harm. Thankfully my husband and son were able to fill the gaps for me. They were good with the math while I was good with the food measurements. At that time it was a slow process to get to the food. At seven years old my son wasn’t comfortable yet with checking his blood sugar himself or giving himself insulin through a syringe. And for a mom with a needle phobia it was amazing how I was able to block out the anxiety to make sure my child had what he needed.

There were so many things to take care of just so my son could return to school. Our small rural school doesn’t have a nurse on staff so we were faced with having to develop a plan with the administration. We had to set up meetings with the principal, secretary and my son’s teachers to explain his plan for treatment. We had to present a condensed version of the boot camp we went through at the hospital after just learning it ourselves, including how to use his emergency medication in case of a severe low blood sugar – or hypoglycemic episode.

At the time our son was the only child with diabetes in the building so many things we talked about with them was new information. We received amazing support from our school and a teacher that was a certified EMT volunteered to meet my son in the office at lunch to help him with this insulin injection. After a few short weeks she had him comfortable with doing it on his own.

Even with a plan there were so many other things to think of to ensure we were comfortable with him being “on his own” at school.

  • We bought small plastic tote boxes at the beginning of every school year that held his snacks in case of a low blood sugar. Those were kept in the classroom so they were close by if needed.
  • He also had a water bottle that he kept at school for those times of high blood sugar – or hyperglycemic
  • At the start of every school year my husband and I took a day off work and set an appointment at the school with the administration and his teachers – including his classroom teacher, PE teacher, art teacher, etc. After our son was in middle school the administration presented diabetes care to all members of staff before the fall semester began.

Our school “lunch ladies” also helped out in a big way. They measured food portions they served and provided me with a list of estimated carbohydrate counts for all foods they served. Every day we paid for a lunch from the school and I packed a supplement lunch for my son that included replacements for the items that were a little too high in sugar content. I printed out little slips of paper that I listed each food item on every morning to help him learn carbohydrate counting and measurement. That slip of paper also included how much insulin he should dose for the meal. I filled those slips of paper out every day until he mentioned it in an appointment with his endocrinologist at the beginning of seventh grade. It was not easy to relinquish that control and let him make his own food choices, but as I learned he was really the one in control. All I could do was provide the options.

Format for our “lunch slip” – based on a 1 unit / 15 carb ratio and correction of 1 unit / 50 mg/dL for BG over 150

I’d say it really does take a village to raise a child, especially if that child is living with special circumstances. It was a great feeling to have our small rural school rally around us to assure us as a family that they were there to allow our son to attend school without significant interruption or deviation from his classmates.

There were lots of lessons learned through trial and error. Check back to hear about how our athletic son dealt with highs and lows, being pulled from a game in progress and how to perform while dealing with it all.

Presented by: Tamara Martin