Tackling School

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If there is one thing we have been blessed with in our journey with Type 1 Diabetes, it’s a caring and co-operative school filled with wonderful teachers willing to take on the responsibility of attending before-school workshops to learn about diabetes and how to handle any emergency situations that may arise.  A lot has changed since our daughter started Prep at this school.  I no longer spend most of my days shuttling back and forth between home and the classroom dealing with the aftermath of lows, highs, bolusing food, attending P.E sessions  etc. etc. etc.  And parents and children in the classroom no longer mistake me for a member of staff (that’s how often I was there).

Our deputy principal has rallied for funding to cover teacher aide time to accommodate all 5 Type 1 Diabetic children in our school (you read it right, 5 children in a school of less than 400 students) and there are 3 aides who specifically care for our children day-in, day-out.  This has made an amazing difference in the schooling of our children.  I call our aide, Mrs L our guardian angel, she knows our daughter and her symptoms so well that I know that in an emergency, if she was unable to reach either my husband or myself that she would know exactly what to do and more than likely make the same decisions we would make with regards to treatment.  And if Mrs L is away, I know the relieving aide is up-to-speed on what needs to be done.  I remember one day recently my daughter’s teacher aide from Prep was filling in for Mrs L and she gave me a call after the 10am test.  “Her level is good” she said, “but she’s just not right.  She’s not herself.  Can I test her again in 5 or 10 minutes?”  “Sure, go for it” I said.  “When in doubt, just do it!” is our motto.  Ten minutes later the aide called me back to tell me my daughter’s BGL’s were 2.3 and that she had already started treatment.

I’m not trying to make other Type 1 parents envious, it’s just nice to acknowledge the amazing effort that is put in at our school to accommodate  children not only with Type 1, but any disability, ensuring they get to take part in every activity the school has to offer.  We could easily take everything they do for granted, so sometimes it’s nice to shout from the rooftops (or the Internet) how much we appreciate them.

This post, however is to give you an idea of how we tackle the every-day needs of our daughter at school.  There’s no one way to handle Diabetes, but I know that I have picked up tips from other Type 1 parents along the way and I thought it might be helpful to those of you who are off to school next year if I shared some of the things we have learned.

Well, first of all there are the Emergency Action Plans that are put up on the walls in our daughter’s classroom, the staffroom and the school library.  These plans are much more concise than the ones we first drafted when our daughter was in Prep.  Nobody has time to read an essay in an emergency situation.  They need concise, step-by-step instructions that can be actioned immediately.  If you have no idea where to start and would like someone to help you customise a plan specifically for your child, you can find out about our plans here.

As well as the hypo kit that is kept in the classroom, a small hypo kit containing jellybeans and a muesli bar is also kept in the office and the library, just in case they are needed unexpectedly.  A spare Glucagen needle is also kept in the office.  Our daughter always carries a small backpack containing action plans, tester, Glucagen and jellybeans with her at all times, but you never know, she’s only 10 and could easily be distracted and leave it somewhere, so we think it’s safer to keep these little stashes all over the school on the off-chance they are needed.

When she was in the lower grades we also decorated her school hat so that she was easily located amongst the other children in the playground.  She thinks she is too old for this now, but the aide supervising always knows where she is.  And if she chooses to spend her lunch break in the library she checks-in with the librarian as she arrives so they know she is there.  She always has a buddy with her on trips to the library and the toilet.

One thing we have learned in the last 12 months is that the Hypo Kit Backpack must be within reach of our daughter at all times.  It used to be kept on a bench behind the teacher’s desk, but last year there was a School Lockdown, not a practice one, a real one, and our daughter was left hiding under her desk, too scared to move because they were told to hide, keep quiet and still, and she had a Hypo and was unable to reach her kit.  Lesson learned, it now hangs over her chair and moves around the classroom with her.

The contents of our Classroom Hypo Kit has changed over the years.  When in Prep our daughter used to drink one of those sugary fruit poppers with a very low juice content when she had a hypo, but now we find that Lucozade works just as quickly without sending her levels skyrocketing.  Jellybeans of course are more convenient when she is travelling around the school, so she always has a good stock of those in her backpack.  I know Jellybabies are the symbol for Diabetes, but they just don’t work fast enough in our situation.

So here’s a peek inside our Kit:

P6061408– 2 Bottles of Lucozade (don’t fit in container so sit beside it)

– 1 Box Alcohol Swabs

– 2 x Boxes of Spare Test Strips

– 1 Spare Tester with Strips

– Spare Batteries for Testers

– 2 Contact-detach sites

– 2 Cartridge Resevoirs

(We don’t keep spare Insulin at school for safety reasons.  Also, teachers don’t re-site our daughter, they phone us and we go in and do it and take insulin with us).

– Bandaids

P6061411– 6 Snap-Lock Bags, each containing 12 Jellybeans and a Muesli Bar (we call them Grab and Go Bags).  These bags are handy for re-stocking her Hypo Backpack or the office and library hypo supplies.

– Bag of Jellybeans

– 1 in-code Glucagen Needle

– 1 clearly labeled expired Glucagen Needle for teachers to practise on oranges with if they want to.

 – a spare set of Emergency Action Plans including one for Sports events and one for Relieving Teachers.  

It might sound like a lot, but as you can see, it all fits neatly in a container (apart from the Lucozade), and it saves us a lot of unnecessary trips in to school throughout the week.  And when stocks run low our teacher’s aide writes a little note on our daughter’s lunch sheet (I will be posting a template soon) and we send in the extra supplies.  We also take the entire kit home with us each school holidays for re-stocking.

Starting school with your Type 1 child is very daunting.  Trusting your child with strangers who may not be familiar with Diabetes is a huge thing, and it takes a little while for you, your child and the teachers to build trust and get into the groove with the testing routine etc., but it does happen and eventually everyone becomes so comfortable with their roles that it becomes just another day at school.  Planning ahead and being prepared can make the transition that little bit easier.

If you have any tips to share on how to make the transition to school a smoother one, visit our FB page, say Hi and share your ideas with everyone.  There’s always something new to learn.