Four Tips I Learned for Managing Diabetes in School
By Tia Geri
Twitter summary: High schooler w/ #T1D gives top 4 tips for managing #diabetes in schools: tell teachers + friends, have extra gear, + take breaks when low
Short summary: Tia Geri, a freshman in high school with type 1 diabetes since she was eight, gives her top four tips for managing diabetes in school: telling teachers, friends, keeping extra supplies, and taking breaks when low.
Pop-quizzes, tennis practice, homework… then add diabetes into the mix. School is a lot to handle for any teenager, so we decided to go to the source and get some tips from a high school student herself. Meet Tia Geri - a 14-year-old freshman from the Bay Area who has been managing diabetes since she was eight years old. You heard from Tia, of course, with her renowned piece on what to tell patients of children with diabetes what’s what! This issue, we’ve got some of Tia’s tips about managing diabetes in school. Have your own tips you want to share? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org!
1. I Tell My Teachers About Diabetes. When I stuff my mouth with marshmallows in the middle of class because of a low, diabetes is not naturally the first thing that comes to most peoples’ minds. This can lead to some pretty strange questions. For substitute teachers, I try to tell them right before class starts so I don't get weird looks during class. Usually, I just say that I have type 1 diabetes and that sometimes I may have to eat in class, or that I may need to use my insulin pump to manage my blood sugar. I show them my pump and tell them that it might beep, so the teacher won’t get upset thinking I’m on my phone texting. The short explanation does wonders – I have never had someone object to my eating or using my pump in class. For regular teachers, I always set up a meeting before the school year starts – this meeting tends to be a bit longer than with the substitute teacher, as I’ll go over in more depth symptoms of hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia, what to do in case of an emergency, how my blood sugar may impact my performance at any given time (more on that later!), and more.
2. I Tell My Friends About Diabetes. I want my friends to understand my diabetes management, since they can often be the most helpful people when I have a low or high blood sugar. If they know what it means when I have a low blood sugar, they won't hesitate to give me a snack and make sure I’m okay. And in class, if anyone ever wonders why I am eating or using my cell phone, it is great to have someone else able to explain, especially when I have a low blood sugar and don’t feel very well. I know people that don’t feel comfortable telling their friends, but through my personal experiences, I have found that my friends tend to be helpful and ask good questions. Sometimes, I just tell one friend, and they can relay the message to everyone else, which takes a lot of the burden off of me.
3. I Always Keep Extra Supplies at School. There is a lot to keep track of in diabetes, which makes it easy to run out of test strips, a pump or meter battery, the hard candies I use to treat lows, etc. The worst of all is when I just flat out forget everything at home! I always keep backups in every classroom. And this year, since I have a locker, I keep spares of everything in there as well. My spare supplies consist of: one container of strips, one meter, one pricker (lancet device), several pricker refill cartridges, two AAA batteries (for my insulin pump), and assorted hard candies and glucose tablets.
4. I Never Take Tests or Quizzes When My Blood Sugar is Low. I’ve found it’s always better to wait a bit and take the test or quiz later. I used to just take the test anyway, because I thought I was doing well regardless of my lows. I decided to make a change when I took a math test and got 0% on the section that I did when I was low. In that case I was able to retake the test, but I learned my lesson! Now, I eat a snack and wait until I am back in range before starting. Even when I think I am fine, I can skip problems, make easy mistakes, and answer in the wrong answer blanks when I’m low. Other people with diabetes have told me that they feel the same way when they’re low – they think they’re doing well in the moment, but then they look over their work later and realize how many silly mistakes they’ve made.