Wellness

Back-to-School Tips for Chronic Conditions

Back-to-School Tips for Children with Chronic Conditions

Main Article Content

Checklist for Kids with Asthma, Diabetes, Food Allergies and other medical concerns

Back to school – it’s that time again for new clothes, school supplies, classroom visits and new schedules.

But for students who are managing chronic conditions, like asthma, diabetes and food allergies, back to school can require more planning than the last-minute rush to buy a box of crayons.

Make Special Accommodations

Families of children with chronic conditions need to have an appointment with their provider before the start of each school year. During this visit, it’s important to get all of the necessary medical forms signed, including a release for the school to administer medication.

You’ll also want to determine if your child could benefit from a 504 plan, which provides support services such as extended time on tests, pre-approved nurse’s office visits or the ability to leave the classroom for short breaks. Be sure to update your child’s accommodations each year, and talk to your physician and other providers to get an idea of what might be included. Keep in mind, 504 plans are different than an individualized education plan (IEP), which provides individual instruction and special education. They’re each covered by different laws and work in different ways.

If appropriate, order a medical alert bracelet (or necklace) for your child, and encourage to wear or carry it at all times.

Get to Know the School Staff

Before the first day of school, meet with your child’s teachers, school nurse, playground or cafeteria supervisor, principal and any others who may have daily contact with your student. Don’t assume they are all aware of your child’s unique needs. This is an ideal time to explain your child’s condition and request clarity on what support they have and what can you supply. For example, you can provide:

  • Signs and symptoms of problems, along with a simple description of the condition and what needs to happen if the child requires emergency care.
  • Supply them with contact information, including other friends or family members that may be contacted if you are not available. Signed consents may be required. Don’t assume that they will allow grandparents to make decisions in your absence without a signed consent form.
  • How much assistance your child might need, or if he can take care of his condition independently. Ask if the staff is knowledgeable in using specific tools for the condition such as glucose meters or Epipens.
  • Let them know how your child reacts to a low or high blood sugar (for kids with diabetes)
  • In the case of allergies, find out where your child will eat and how often, and who will clean the lunch table.
  • Educate the staff about how your child describes an allergic reaction (lips feel tingly, throat feels itchy, etc.).
  • Encourage teachers to avoid using food as rewards in the classroom, explain that your child should not be included in any food rewards in the school and explain that the child understands that. Request that this information is shared with all parents.
  • Share tips that previous teachers have offered about your child’s condition, and what has worked well in other classrooms.

The communication doesn’t stop there. When the school year is in full swing, check-in once a month, with a quick phone call or email to discuss any adjustments or observations, and to see if any medical supplies need to be replenished.

Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to include children in the conversations as well. Asking your child to participate in these discussions helps empower them to manage their condition.

Most schools are equipped and ready to help your child, but being part of the process and knowing who can help your child can alleviate some of the back to school jitters.

Stock-up on Medical Supplies

In addition to new folders and notebooks, there are certain medical supplies your child may need to have available throughout the day, because these supplies may not be provided by the school. Discussing with the school what supplies can be brought in and where they will be stored is important. These supplies might include:

Diabetes

  • Juice, healthy snacks, glucose pills to treat low blood sugar levels
  • Glucometer
  • Extra battery
  • Test strips
  • Constant glucometer instructions and extra supplies
  • Water and instructions about treating high blood sugar levels
  • Instructions about administering insulin (how often, how much)

Allergies

  • Epipen
  • Benadryl
  • Inhaler
  • Foods that don’t contain allergens
  • Tissue for those bad runny nose days

Discuss with the school how they would like the supplies stored. Check the expiration date for all of the medications and replace them as needed thru the year as they come close to expiration. Make sure each item is labeled with your child’s name and date of birth as identifiers. This will give everyone peace of mind.

Communication and a bit of extra planning ensures that getting back to school can be a huge success and an exciting time in your child’s life.

Interested in connecting more to the Northwestern Medicine community? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E-Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements. Because what makes us better, makes you better.