It’s understandable and common to be worried about your child returning to school

Staff may also have concerns about how to support your child especially if type 1 diabetes is new to them. 

For many school staff, supporting a student with type 1 diabetes is a new experience. By taking part in type 1 diabetes education and training they can develop the skills to manage type 1 diabetes in the school setting. Along with information and support from you and your child’s clinical treating team, staff will be able to look after your child and their specific needs. That’s why it’s vital that everyone involved in your child’s type 1 diabetes care at their school meets at least once a year or more often if necessary. These meetings are the best time to discuss how to provide your child with the health support needed and who will be responsible for doing so. They are also an opportunity to update staff on any changes in your child’s type 1 diabetes management. Your child’s diabetes management plan is the key document to use during these meetings.

Let your child’s school know

Generally, it will be you who tells your child’s school about your child’s type 1 diabetes. If your child is newly diagnosed you need to inform the school as soon as possible. If they’re starting at a new school this needs to be done at the time of enrolment and again when their place is confirmed. When choosing a school it’s worth asking to view any relevant policies and procedures, investigate funding opportunities for additional staff and whether they have had any previous experience managing children with type 1 diabetes.

Attend a meeting with the principal and school staff

Your first meeting with the school is to ensure there is a clear understanding of the level of support that your child needs. This should include a discussion of your child’s diabetes management plan and the importance of notifying relevant staff that your child has type 1 diabetes. Make sure that someone takes notes at the meeting. A good way to make progress is to record decisions and actions, noting the people responsible and a timeline for the actions. It’s important to make it clear that you will develop the diabetes management plan with your child’s clinical treating team, and you will provide it to the school. This will need to be done by you before the school year begins, or as soon as possible if your child is diagnosed during the year.

Preparing for the meeting with your school staff

It’s important to prepare for any meeting with the key staff at your child’s school. There’s a lot to discuss and there are plenty of things to consider. Here are some points to help you prepare for the meeting:

  • make a list of all of the type 1 diabetes-related tasks your child will need help with
  • get a copy of the school timetable and consider how your child’s current insulin routine and eating habits will fit, or if you need to discuss changes that could be made
  • think about tasks like hand washing, sharps disposal, storage of equipment and supplies, and a private space if desired for insulin administration
  • read any relevant policies, procedures and/or plans in place at your child’s school
  • make notes to provide helpful feedback if you feel there’s not enough information.

Who should be at the meeting?

You and any other member of your family directly involved in the daily management of your child’s type 1 diabetes.
If there’s shared custody for your child all parties need to be present to ensure that everyone is using the same strategies to help manage your child’s type 1 diabetes.

Your child may wish to attend.
However, their age needs to be carefully considered. For example, it may not be helpful for younger children to attend.

The most relevant staff members.
For schools, this may include the principal or vice-principal as well as the classroom teacher and possibly the physical education teacher and staff involved in student welfare. Those in attendance need to be able to make agreements on behalf of the school.

If applicable, before or after-school care staff should attend.

Tips for a productive meeting

Do your homework. Make notes about any concerns you wish to talk about as well as the questions you would like answered.

  • Be confident to ask for what you want and be ready to talk about your child’s needs
  • Recognise that type 1 diabetes may be new to the school staff. It may be useful to recall how you felt at the time of diagnosis
  • Show the staff that you appreciate that there’s a lot to learn about type 1 diabetes and you are just learning yourself
  • Acknowledge that looking after a child with type 1 diabetes at school is a complex but manageable and it will take some getting used to
  • Listen to what others have to say
  • Stay focused on the discussion, concentrate on the relevant issues and try not to get side-tracked
  • Be clear on actions – who is responsible for what and the time frame for completion.

What to talk about at the meeting

Before the meeting think about the following points and discuss them with your child’s clinical treating team. This will help you explain the support your child needs. Together with your child’s clinical treating team write the diabetes management plan for your child’s school.

Professional development
You may like to let the school know about the Diabetes in School education and training available for staff to learn more about type 1 diabetes.

Your child’s diabetes management plan
Use your child’s diabetes management plan to highlight the specific needs of your child regarding their type 1 diabetes.

You and the school staff will need to find a way of communicating with each other that works for both of you. All communications need to be clear, direct and in writing where possible. This may be through a communication book where you and the staff can detail any relevant events and information. You may also want to communicate by text message, phone call or email. There may also be times during the day when you might need to be called. Let the school know in what situations you would like to be contacted.

Keep the school aware of any changes to your contact numbers or those of the alternate adult you have nominated. Find out who will be your main contact person at the school and the best way of getting hold of them. This is to ensure that any information reaches the right person who is caring for your child.

Make sure the school staff have all the equipment needed to look after your child. Decide where your child’s type 1 diabetes equipment will be kept or if it is to be carried with them. Provide back-up equipment and supplies to the school and decide where these will be kept. This all needs to be documented in your child’s diabetes management plan.