Back to School

Two and a half weeks after Lia’s diagnosis she returned to school. The holiday break was a godsend, giving us time to get our arms around her diabetes, so by the time classes started back up we all had become lay experts in the field, at least in terms of counting carbs and dosing insulin. And Lia was ready to get back. She was eager to share with her third grade teachers and classmates the news of her diabetes and the grown-up manner in which she treated it. It was something Franca and I were anxious to have behind us too.

We had always been on good terms with the elementary school and we both liked her teachers very much, as did Lia too. But neither of us were sure what reaction if any the administration might have in helping us manage her treatment. Franca is a high school teacher at the same school but on a different campus and knew firsthand of the process as well as the planning, preparation and partnership it would require of everyone, especially of Lia’s teachers. So the first thing we did was schedule a meeting with the school for the Friday before students returned.

To prepare for the session, Franca read through and followed precisely the suggestions outlined in the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s School Advisory Toolkit. This guide, which can be downloaded from the JDRF website, offers a great many details and tools for parents and educators to use in developing a collaborative and thoroughly detailed plan. The toolkit was invaluable and made it much easier for us to understand and share with the school Lia’s specific needs.

As we expected, her teachers and the principal greeted us at the meeting with compassion and promised us their diligence in attending to Lia’s wellness. We spoke about diabetes and the war it had raged inside her pancreas and we helped them understand what was required of Lia and those responsible for her to ensure she’s receiving the care necessary to keep her safe, be it food, access to the bathroom, frequent blood sugar monitoring or insulin. We went over her daily schedule and the times of the day she would need to check her blood sugar and what symptoms to be on the lookout for in the case her sugar levels rose too high or fell too low. We gave them contact numbers and instructed them in the use of glucagon kit. We showed them the supply kit Lia would be using at school. We talked about the letter we were sending home to her classmates’ parents informing them of her diagnosis and we asked to come talk to the students themselves about diabetes, to which the school agreed, as they did to everyone of our other requests, including the creation of Section 504 plan, specific to Lia, outlining in writing the modifications and accommodations the school would provide in regard to her medical disability.

There was much more still to understand and talk about but when we left the school an hour later I felt much more at ease. The principal and teachers had convinced us that we had an ally in them in fighting against this disease, and though their word was all we had, sometimes you just can’t ask for any more than that. Only the day and the weeks and months that follow will truly tell.

To find more information on the JDRF School Advisory Toolkit, click here.


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