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Back to School

We hope summer has treated you well and you've had some fun in the sun staying in range! As we say goodbye to summer, the U-M Pediatric Diabetes care team is here to help guide you through all the ins and outs of what you need for back-to-school. Read on for our tips and tricks for getting off to a great start this school year.

Get an A+ in diabetes preparedness

It's never too early to start planning to have a successful school year. Going back to school with T1D can be a lot to handle, especially for those with a new diagnosis. Don't be afraid, though! The U-M Pediatric Diabetes care team has your back.  Read below for the steps you should take to get off to a great start!

Make a plan. Make sure you have a Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP) and establish a 504 plan with your school and health care providers. If you don’t have a DMMP or 504 plan yet, have no fear. Contact your care team to draft a DMMP together and discuss 504 plans. You can learn about 504 plans and see an example in our School FAQs.

Teach your teachers. Get your teachers and nurses on board with your diabetes plan! This includes teaching them about what technology will need to be used, what to expect at snack and meal times, and the signs of hyper- and hypoglycemia. In order to allow your teachers time to acclimate to your student and to focus on their individual needs, we can offer a special class to answer any questions they may have about diabetes management. Contact us to ask about arranging this or to inquire when our next school training event will be. You can also share "Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel" with them, or forward these resources from JDRF on T1D at school.

Be ready. Heading to school with T1D involves being prepared for more than highs and lows in the classroom. If you will be taking the bus to school, make a bus emergency plan and keep low glucose supply boxes on the bus. Leave a supply kit at school and make sure an adult and a backup adult know about it. They can also help let you know when these supplies are running low.

Get familiar! Learn the routes to your classes to ensure that you know where nearest bathrooms are, and how close you are to the office and your locker. Many students find it necessary to keep their low glucose supplies with them at all times, especially in bigger schools. You will want these supplies to be accessible, so be sure to plan ahead!

Say hi! Create a "hello letter" - this is a great way to introduce your child to their teachers.  Simply, write a letter that explains your child's needs and drop it off to teachers to read at their leisure. This doesn't replace a 504 plan but as an addendum, it helps to give a short summary of your student. This is great for older students that often have 7 or more teachers and coaches. Here is an example of a school letter you could personalize for yourself.

What's for lunch? If you plan to buy lunch at school, talk to the administrators and cafeteria staff about the lunch program and how to get carb counts for school lunches. It may be helpful to receive a copy of the lunch menu in advance, if possible.

Be sure to check out our School FAQs for more information.

Trying out for a team or club? No problem!

So you have diabetes and you're an awesome soccer player? Thinking of running on your high school cross country team or starting ice skating for the first time ever? Maybe you're joining the marching band, the robot club, or a theatre group! Let’s make sure you are ready for the highs and lows of activities with diabetes.

​Read below for our tips and suggestions for extracurriculars with diabetes.

Be a team player. Talk to your teacher, mentor, or coach about T1D and make sure they are prepared in case of an emergency. Discuss high and low blood sugar symptoms, what to do in case of an emergency low, and how to signal when you need to take a break. Consider telling members of your team or friends you can count on about your T1D to help in the event of an emergency. You may also need to inform rules officials about medical devices to be sure you are not disqualified for using them.

​​Check before you play! Make sure to check your blood sugar before you get on the field or start a high intensity activity. If you are on a pump or CGM, make sure your site is covered and secured.

Prepare for a low emergency. Bring your glucagon with you to home and away events and be sure to tell someone where it is.​​

Stay supplied! Always have water, juice, and/or glucose tablets on hand when going to play sports.

Stay alert. We recommend you always wear a medical alert ID during sports and activities​.

Stay cool! If you will be playing outdoors while the weather is still hot, make sure you stay hydrated. Store your insulin in a small cooler where the sun will not reach it. 

Be sure to check out our Exercise & Activities FAQs for more information.

Tackling Back to School Stress & Anxiety

Returning to school can be nerve wracking. This is normal and will likely subside as your child gets back in the routine of in-person school. However, some children may experience anticipatory anxiety that makes the transition back to school more challenging. There are things you can do to reduce your child’s school related anxiety and potential avoidance.

Signs your child may be experiencing anticipatory anxiety about school:

  • Verbally expressing concerns about returning to school

  • Making requests to continue with virtual school options

  • Becoming withdrawn, tearful, or angry when school is discussed or school-related preparations are completed

  • Increase in headaches, stomach aches, pain, racing heart, or dizziness as school approaches

Helping your child deal with school anxiety

When is comes to coping with school anxiety, the most important thing is to return your child to school as soon as possible. Providing excuses for your child to not be in school makes the anxiety worse in the long run. To help your child get back to school on the first day and remain in school, you can use the following strategies:

  1. Talk to your child about their concerns ahead of time. Be empathetic and understanding about their views about school. Identify any parts of the return to school that can be problem-solved before the first day. Contact our team for any diabetes-related concerns.

  2. Validate your child's concerns and insist on their return to school on the first day. Delaying the return to school will unintentionally worsen the anxiety and make it harder to return later.

  3. Create a school morning routine (e.g., time of alarm, get dressed, dose insulin, eat breakfast, brush teeth). Leave enough time that your child does not feel rushed, but avoid too much downtime waiting for school. Limit discussions about physical symptoms and anxiety. Include a plan for how to hold firm on the return to school.

  4. Notify school personnel (such as a trusted teacher, school counselor, and/or principal) who can help support your child and provide assistance during the school day. Create a shared plan for reducing the focus on anxiety or physical symptoms and encouraging your child to remain in class as much as possible.

  5. Brainstorm coping strategies that your child can use if they are becoming anxious. Some of our favorites are taking 5 deep belly breaths, clenching muscles and releasing, talking to a friend, and repeating a positive statement like, "you can do this."

When to seek help

Many of the above strategies can be done as a family. If you child experiences school avoidance for more than one week, your child may benefit from professional help. Our psychosocial team (clinic psychologist and social workers) can help direct you to resources or you can contact your insurance company for a list of covered cognitive behavioral therapists.


Check out our Emotional Support resources for more information.

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