The highs and lows of back-to-school time

Jennifer Runyon - Contributing Columnist

Mid-August means one thing: back to school! Purchase school supplies, get that first day outfit ready, head to open house, meet the teachers, put money on the lunch account, set the alarm, and lay your head down knowing that all preparation is done, right?

If you’re the parent of a type 1 diabetic child, pieces are missing from this “normal” back to school checklist. As the school year approaches, d-parents are setting up meetings with the school nurse, child’s teachers, and any other applicable staff members. They’re also making sure their child has everything needed for any occasion that might possibly, could maybe, perhaps one day happen at school. We all know the outcome when you think, “Oh that will never happen,” or “He’ll never need that.” It does happen and he does need it, leaving you dropping whatever it is you’re doing to take it to him, losing precious time for you both.

So, while parents and kids vary on what they keep supplies in and just what supplies they keep at school, we all are filling something. Personally, we use a rectangular Tupperware container that will house an extra testing meter, test strips, lancets, batteries, two pods, Skin-Tac liquid, Skin-Tac wipes, adhesive remover wipes, juice, candy, glucagon, and ketone strips. We’ll also have an unopened bottle of insulin in the fridge.

Once all this is gathered, I’ll need to print the symptoms that describe highs and lows for all his teachers and review his 504 plan. A 504 plan ensures that students with disabilities identified under the law are eligible for certain accommodations to allow their education not be hindered by their disability – side note here, I have a very hard time saying that diabetes is a disability! We can do anything, diabetes doesn’t have to stop us, and all those other pump you up motivational sayings that I honestly believe in 100 percent, but the truth is, every now and then an exception does have to be made.

For example, if Jackson’s sugar drops in the middle of a timed test, he should be allowed extra time to finish that test. If his sugar is high, he’s not going to perform as well and should be allowed to do the assignment when he is in range. I had a hard time putting my child on a 504. I believe that you have to learn to live with this disease and the problems that come with it (after all, suck it up, buttercup is one of my all-time favorite sayings) but then it hit me. If I have a difficult assignment at work, I’m not going to work on it when I’m low or super high. I have that freedom our kids though often times do not. Luckily, we’re only changing one thing in our 504 this year.

Last year, Jackson couldn’t go out to recess or gym unless his blood sugar was above 100. He’s asked to lower that to 80 and I’m okay with that as long as he has 15-20 carbs beforehand because as his nurse says, this kid does everything 100 percent! He will come in dripping wet with sweat and had he not had those carbs, extremely low and most likely, early.

A 504 plan that only needs minor edits, a school and nurse that we already know, and him having 17 months experience under his belt, is making this year’s back to school about a million times easier than last year’s! Bring it on 2016/17 school year – Bring. It. On! Now to get that box packed up, edit that 504, print those papers, oh and make low carb breakfasts to have ready to go to prevent those dreaded post-breakfast spikes.

Happy Back to School to everyone! May your years be filled with fun memories, lots of learning, and steady-in-range blood sugars!

Jennifer Runyon

Contributing Columnist

Jennifer Runyon is a freelance writer who shares her life stories living with type 1 diabetes for 28 years and whose young son also has been diagnosed with the disease. Email her at

Jennifer Runyon is a freelance writer who shares her life stories living with type 1 diabetes for 28 years and whose young son also has been diagnosed with the disease. Email her at