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Golisano Children's Hospital / Endocrinology / Tips for Teachers

Managing Diabetes: Ten Tips for Teachers

  1. Every child living with diabetes is different. Each and every child living with diabetes may have different symptoms of "low" blood sugar. Although many of the symptoms may be similar, they will not always be the same. Situations that can affect your student's blood sugar are: insulin, food intake, exercise, illness, stress, and/or any changes in routine. Soon you will get to know your own student's unique individuality and their typical reactions to "low" blood sugar.
  2. Don't draw unnecessary attention to your student's condition. Since your student living with diabetes may have to eat snacks periodically in the classroom, allow the whole class to have a snack at the necessary time. This tells the student who must have a snack that it is okay to eat when he or she needs to, without singling them out as being "different." In addition to your student's designated snack time, remember that he or she must eat when ever they feel "low." This is imperative, especially if the student is unable to have their blood sugar checked first by the school nurse. This is not a choice for the child living with diabetes, but a necessity!
  3. Provide inconspicuous and gentle reminders. Pay close attention to your student's regular snack time. Not all children (especially the very young) can tell time, or are going to remember their snack time. If you have not noticed them eating, pass them a note or work out a special "password" between the two of you which reminds them of their snack time.
  4. Do not put a "label" on the student living with diabetes. Never single out a child living with diabetes as the "diabetic" kid. First and foremost, the child living with diabetes needs and wants to feel unique and special, just like every other student in your class.
  5. Do not sympathize. Empathize. A child with diabetes does not want or need your sympathy. These children need understanding, acceptance and support. Educate yourself in every way possible regarding diabetes. Learn how it may affect them and have compassion for how they must live their lives each and every day.
  6. Always be prepared. Always carry a quick and portable snack whenever you and your student living with diabetes leave the classroom or the school grounds. This is especially important during fire drills, earthquake drills, field trips, special presentations, and/or assemblies. A small can of juice together with crackers may work best.
  7. Use the buddy system. If your student living with diabetes tells you he or she feels "low" and needs to see the nurse always send a "buddy" (someone who won't object) with them. In rare instances, the child's blood sugar may be so "low" that they may become disoriented and not make it to the nurse's office if left alone. Again, this is the rare extreme, but it does happen.
  8. Allow unrestricted bathroom breaks. When given the opportunity, let the child living with diabetes know that it is okay to go to the bathroom whenever necessary. If their blood sugar is running "high," their body's natural response is to eliminate the extra glucose by using the bathroom. Don't make them feel embarrassed by having to ask you for permission.
  9. Be patient. Be patient if the student living with diabetes has minor problems with organization. "High" and/or "low" blood sugar levels may make it difficult for them to concentrate at times. You may have to repeat some things, especially if they've been to the nurse's office during class time.
  10. Keep the lines of communication open. Always work together with the student, caregivers, school nurse and other educators as a team player. If there is a special school party or occasion where "treats" are to be served, let the family know in advance, if possible. This allows the family to discuss the options with the child so that he or she can make responsible choices. Often, many "treats" can be worked into the child's regular meal plan.