My newly diagnosed daughter is starting school, help!Elissa Renouf
My eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 last month. She starts at a new school next term and I’m overwhelmed by the prospect of putting her in the care of strangers so soon.
Your anxieties are totally normal. Even though I’m an old hand at the game, I still get butterflies as my boys start the school year – how is their new teacher going to react? Will they recognise the signs if my child is having a hypo? Do they understand that my child may have to take breaks to manage his levels, and not to embarrass him in front of his peers?
Whether they’re starting a new school or a new year, the key is preparation. Over the years, I’ve picked up some useful know-how and I find that putting a plan in place before the school year finishes helps me keep calm and in control when the next one comes around. Here are my tips for easing your child through this transition.
Find out what support systems your health authority may have in place to help you, and make use of these. Also, find out as early as possible from the school who your child’s new teacher will be. If they’re in high school, ask for a list of all specialist teachers and not just their form group or home room supervisor.
Organise a meeting with these teachers and all other staff who interact with your child throughout the year (librarians, PE and music teachers, admin and support staff, and so on).
Educate them about your child’s condition. I found the best way was to show them the Professor Bumblebee DVD (available through Diabetes Australia). This helps to explain diabetes in very simple terms.
Offer guidance by taking your child’s diabetic equipment to the meeting, explaining its purpose and how to use it.
Help them understand your child’s individual needs via a Personalised Diabetes Management plan outlining testing times, treatment, hypo and hyper symptoms, care contact details, and so on. Diabete-ezy produces plans that are personalised to your child’s needs (order yours here).
Prepare staff for emergencies by demonstrating your child’s hypo kit, explaining the need to act fast. Post a number of kits in key locations around the school – their classroom, admin office and sports changing rooms – so they are always readily to hand. Equip each kit wit ha sticker explaining what action to take if your child has a hypo (Diabete-ezy hypo stickers sheets – available here – are an easy and concise way to set these out).
Encourage your child’s teacher to ask questions – make it clear you’re always available if they need guidance and information. I’ve found that the more they ask in the first week or two, the better they understand your child’s needs, making the whole year less of a challenge.
Ask if there are other children with diabetes in the school. It’s great to have this network of parents to offer each other support.
Last, but not least, take time to sit down and take a deep breath. It may be scary, but remember, you’ve done all that you could, to the best of your ability and the teachers and staff will thank you later!