Going back to school after you’re told you have diabetes might freak you out. You might be worried about what your friends think, will everyone notice, will they think you’re different? What will your teachers say?
When you first go back to school, here’s some things you can do to make it a bit easier:
- Get someone to talk to the teachers at the school about diabetes and what they have to look out for (e.g. hypos, testing, sport). You or your family can do this or ask your diabetes educator to visit the school. Communicating with everyone involved in your diabetes management will makes things easier for you.
- At first you might not want anyone to know that you have diabetes, this is understandable but it’s safer if someone knows. Depending on how you feel you might want to explain simply what diabetes is to your friends and classmates – to the people that you trust.
- Make sure that your friends know about hypos and what to do if you have one. This might seem embarrassing, but it could be more embarrassing if your hypo goes untreated.
- Talk to your diabetes team about your usual school timetable and how to fit your diabetes into this without too much hassle.
You can play all sports and do the same activities as those without diabetes, you just have a few extra things to think about. Being active usually lowers BGLs but sometimes BGLs may be higher before and after sport because of being nervous or stressed. Sometimes BGLs can drop low and stay low later in the day or night after sport.
There are some important things you need to think about before, during and after sport, these are:
- Testing – it’s important to do extra tests to see what different sports do to your BGLs. It’s a good idea to test before, during and after sport.
- Insulin – you might need some changes to your insulin dose when you have sport at school, especially sports carnivals. You usually need to lower your insulin dose for exercise. This depends on things like type of activity, duration and your individual response to the activity. Try not to give your insulin in the area near exercising muscles, as it’s absorbed more quickly and may increase the risk of hypos. Your stomach is the best place to give your insulin. It’s a good idea to discuss insulin adjustments for physical activity with your diabetes team.
- Carbohydrate Foods – when you play sport, you usually need extra carbohydrate foods to stop your BGL going too low. It’s a good idea to have a carbohydrate snack like a piece of fruit, juice or muesli bar before sport and extra carbohydrates to top up during and after sport.
- Hypos – when you do sport your BGLs can sometimes drop too low and you have a hypo. When you have a hypo you need to quickly eat or drink something sweet straight away and then eat something else to stop the hypo from coming back. It’s important to have your hypo kit with you at all times. Remember that you can still be hypo a long time after sport, so you may need to eat extra carbohydrates later in the day and before bed.
Food at school
Healthy eating is important for all teenagers, whether you have diabetes or not. It’s important that you eat the right amounts of healthy carbohydrate foods at recess and lunch to help keep your BGLs mostly within the normal range. Remember not to skip recess or lunch or you might have a hypo.
Excursions are a bit like sports days and can make your BGLs go high or low. You might need to make changes to your insulin dose and don’t forget to take your testing kit and insulin, plenty of carbohydrate foods and a full hypo kit..
You don’t have to miss out on school camp just because you’ve got diabetes. It’s really important that the teachers and staff who are going to camp know about diabetes and that a management plan is in place. You’ll need to be responsible for your diabetes care like finger pricks, injections, ketone testing and treating hypos. Going to a diabetes camp first can help you and your family feel more confident about going to school camp.
School exams can make a difference to your usual timetable at school and sometimes cause BGLs to go high or low because you might be worried or stressed. Make sure that you have your testing kit, extra carbohydrate foods and a full hypo kit with you. It’s important the teachers know that you might need to stop and eat or go to the toilet more often during the exam.
There are “special provisions” for year 10 and 12 state exams conducted by each states board of studies. In most States the school is required to send an “Application for Candidates with Disabilities” form together with a medical certificate, to the “Special Provisions for Students with Disabilities” Program at the Board of Studies. It’s a good idea to send these forms in at least six months before the examination.
During exams you’re usually allowed to:
- Take bite-sized carbohydrate foods like dried fruit (but no noisy wrappers) to ‘top-up’ blood glucose levels throughout a lengthy exam.
- Be seated near an exit so others are not disturbed if you have to leave the room.
- Take your blood glucose meter and test strips into the exam room.
- Have a maximum of 5 minutes extra time per half hour of exam time for toilet breaks.
- Have a maximum of 20 minutes extra time per exam to treat any problems (eg. hypos) if required.
- Sit in a separate room with a supervisor.
- Take your insulin pump into the exam room and operate it as your doctor advises.
Special provisions are made on an individual basis with recommendations from your diabetes doctor. If you have a hypo during exams then you should apply to be treated as an “illness or misadventure case”. If this happens, you can usually receive a mark based on a school assessment instead of the exam.
Being on detention or being kept in class during breaks will make a difference to your usual timetable at school. If you are on detention, make sure that the teachers knows that you have diabetes and must have your testing kit, extra carbohydrate foods and a full hypo kit with you at all times. Don’t skip lunch or recess because of detention – make sure that you and your parents have a discussion with the school.
Sometimes teenagers who don’t understand diabetes hassle anyone who’s different from them. If this happens, try and ignore them, although it’s hard to pretend you don’t care what they say – eventually they’ll get fed up if you don’t react. Your friends can also help out by backing you up and supporting you – they like you for who you are. Remember no one really likes bullies! For more support make sure you reach out – There is nothing wrong in asking for help or advice.
Don’t use diabetes as an excuse
Sometimes you might have to eat in class, leave class and do things your friends don’t have to do. It’s important that your teachers and friends understand this, but remember that diabetes isn’t an excuse to get out of things you don’t want to do. If you use diabetes as an excuse, people might start to think that you can’t do all the things that everyone else can do – then you’ll be the one that feels different and misses out in the long run!