High/Secondary School with Type 1 Diabetes
As your child ages, he or she will become more independent and likely more responsible for his or her type 1 diabetes (T1D) management. As with elementary and middle school, your high schooler will have a Section 504 plan. He or she can and should request accommodations to better help navigate more rigorous schooling. The details below are written to empower the student so he or she might take the lead, but feel free to follow along and jump in to support them as needed. If your student agrees, keep in close touch with school nurses and communicate with teachers to be sure everyone understands your student’s needs. Also, it’s a good idea to exchange phone numbers with a close friend or teammate, someone you can contact and someone who could contact you, in case of emergency.
Here’s a sample letter to administrators + teachers + school staff in English or Spanish that introduces type 1.
Whether you enter high school with T1D or are diagnosed along the way—it’s just rough. High school is challenging enough without the added physical and mental burden of a chronic health condition. Still, it’s up to you to take charge and ensure that you’re safe, respected and supported during your four years.
Create a Diabetes Medical Management Program (DMMP)
A DMMP is prepared by you together with your healthcare provider. It should outline your treatment regimen for the school to implement and carry out. According to the CDC, this document should include the following:
- Target blood sugar range and whether you need help checking your blood sugar
- Your specific hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, or “low”) symptoms (see the list on this page) and how to treat hypoglycemia
- Insulin or other medication used
- Meal and snack plans, including for special events
- How to manage physical activity/sports
Download a sample DMMP here.
Develop a Section 504 plan
If you attend a public school, or a private school that receives federal funding, you are entitled to a Section 504 plan. A Section 504 plan is a legal document prepared by you and the school specifying who, what, where and when to implement the DMMP within a school setting.
Download a sample in English or Spanish.
Read up on the USA’s legal rights of students with T1D here.
Communicate with your school and teachers
Ideally your school will facilitate a meeting between your family and school officials before the first day of classes. If they don’t, you should! Try to include the school officials designated to provide care, while being sure that you communicate the results of the meeting with all the teachers and coaches you will have throughout the year.
Use this meeting to go over your DMMP and Section 504 plans and to answer any questions teachers may have. Remember: you know more about your T1D than anyone else. Feel free to share that knowledge! Also ask that you be allowed to keep emergency supplies (such as sports drinks and glucose tablets) in a “low box” in each of your classrooms. If you join new teams throughout the year, meet with the coach before the first practice so you are ready to go on day one.
If your school has never had a student with T1D, consider providing them with additional resources so they can better educate themselves, such as the Teacher’s Guide to Type 1 Diabetes. Remember, the better people understand T1D, the better they will understand your needs and how to help.
Download a School Presentation of Teaching Type 1 to Others.
If you are taking the SAT, ACT or other college-entrance exams, you can receive accommodations for T1D management. For example, many students with T1D can receive special permission to have their diabetes supplies with them in the testing area and are allotted extra or longer break time in order to treat their diabetes. It’s a good idea to contact the testing agencies several months in advance of the test, because the process of obtaining permission for special accommodations can take a long time. You can find the steps necessary to apply for accommodations for the SAT here and for the ACT here.
Getting your license is an exciting high school development. Along with the right to drive comes huge responsibility. As with everything else, T1D requires a few extra precautions. Research your state’s guidelines ahead of time so you aren’t blindsided at the DMV when you go for your test. Keep low supplies (both “fast” and “slow” carbohydrates) in the glove box or trunk of every car you drive and ALWAYS test your blood sugar before driving. There are additional liabilities for people driving with a medical condition and the blood glucose reading captured in your meter will provide important legal evidence in case of an accident. Mostly, though, enjoy this newfound freedom and always buckle up!
Stress + Burnout + Hormones
Mental health is a central part of your overall wellbeing. And as a teenager, you’re at the highest risk of diabetes burnout, stress and depression with all the changes you’re experiencing. Check out some of our resources for taking optimal care of yourself.
Alcohol + Drugs
Though you may not drink or do drugs, it’s likely that some of your peers will. Make sure you understand the heightened risk as a person with T1D. It’s important to remain with a group of friends who know the signs of hypo/hyperglycemia (as these can often be mistaken for being drunk or high) and how they can help you. Again, wear medical identification so your needs are clear if you cannot communicate them well. Consider telling your designated driver to keep an eye on you, or better yet, volunteer to be the DD yourself! If you are ever in a tricky peer pressure situation, nothing backs people off like, “I have a health condition that could be deadly if I drink or do drugs.”
Teaching Type 1 to others
This is part of our School Resources series. Click here for other grade levels, stories, downloadables and content.