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Diabetes at school

A mom is standing behind a young girl with her arms resting on the girl's shoulders.

You can help keep your child healthy in the classroom. (3 min. read)

If your child is newly diagnosed with diabetes, you have a lot to think about. That includes making sure they will be OK at school.

Make a plan

One of your best tools is your child's Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP). It's a set of instructions developed by you and your child's healthcare team before the school year begins, and it contains everything needed for the school to help manage your child's diabetes. See a sample plan from the American Diabetes Association.

Your child's DMMP will include:

  • How to contact you or your child's doctor.
  • When and where to test blood sugar and who will do it.
  • Information about your child's continuous glucose monitor, if they use one.
  • Your child's usual symptoms when blood sugar is too high or too low and how to treat it.
  • Instructions for giving insulin if needed.
  • Regular times for snacks and meals.
  • Instructions for managing your child's blood sugar during and after physical activity and sports.
  • Notes about your child's self-care skills.
  • When to call 911.

Once you have a DMMP, ask for a meeting with the school's principal, office secretary, school nurse, nutrition services manager, teachers and coaches to review it.

Based on the DMMP, the school nurse should prepare an Individualized Healthcare Plan for your child. The nurse should also develop an Emergency Care Plan for Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia. Among other things, these documents explain how to recognize and treat high and low blood sugar in your child. Copies will be given to any school staff who will be responsible for your child during the school day.

You'll need to review and update your child's DMMP at least once every school year.

Know your rights and responsibilities

Federal laws guarantee your child's right to get the education they deserve and the care they need without discrimination. These laws include Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

So in addition to working with your child's school on the DMMP, you may want to set up a 504 Plan. It explains what steps the school will take to accommodate your child's diabetes and make sure they have the same educational opportunities as students without diabetes. Those steps might include things like:

  • Allowing your child to eat when and where needed.
  • Allowing extra trips to the bathroom or water fountain if needed.
  • Ensuring they have access to sports, clubs, activities and field trips.
  • Allowing absences for medical appointments and sick days.

And it spells out your responsibilities as a parent to do things like:

  • Provide blood sugar testing supplies.
  • Provide supplies to treat low blood sugar.
  • Inform school staff about appropriate foods for snacks and parties.

See a sample 504 Plan.

Stock up

As a parent, you will need to provide all of the equipment and supplies needed to manage your child's diabetes at school.

For instance, your child may need to carry these supplies each day:

  • A blood glucose meter and extra batteries, testing strips and lancets.
  • Ketone testing supplies.
  • Insulin and syringes.
  • Antiseptic wipes.
  • Water.
  • Glucose tablets or other fast-acting carbs such as fruit juice or hard candy.
  • Extra snacks.

You should also keep an emergency box of supplies in the school office or nurse's office for instances of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This "hypo box" should be labeled with your child's name and contain things like:

  • Glucagon.
  • Test strips.
  • Lancets.
  • A blood sugar monitor.
  • Glucose tablets.
  • Juice boxes.
  • Crackers.

You will also need to replace items in your child's hypo box as they are used.

Remember that diabetes shouldn't limit your child's school experience. With some preparation, they should be able to fully take part in all classroom and extracurricular activities.

To learn more about living with diabetes, visit the Diabetes health topic center.

Reviewed 9/14/2023

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