Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Junior High, 504, Lessons Learned

What a whirlwind this past week was!

We finished up our fourth week of school which meant that our oldest daughter had her last (and hopefully final) 504 meeting with her seven teachers and principal.  It went smoothly and I truly felt the connection between the teachers and oldest daughter.  In the way that I always hope for, there was a collective agreement that everyone wanted 'what was best' for our child. 

Now, that my team is in place, I can reflect on how we made it happen and what I would like to change for next year.

Boy oh boy, have I learned a lot since she started Junior High!  I thought I might share a few of those thoughts with you.  This is also very self-serving because I think by writing them down, I will be less apt to forget by next fall.  Maybe.  It seems kind of like trying to remember what Christmas presents that you purchased in July and then, completely forgetting that you stored them!  Um, yes.  Maybe I use that analogy from actual experience.  I am not telling though because Christmas is only 80-ish days away.

1.)  Meet the teachers before school starts.   We attempted that and asked for our initial 504 meeting to be held in August.  Our request was complied with except that the building was in complete disarray and per the contract in the teacher's union, no teachers could be let into the building until safety was in place.  Our assistant principal kindly allowed us in, meeting us near the entrance and guiding us to her office - which was a make-shift room in the library.  Working with what we had, I felt more confident that at least the core staff would know who our oldest daughter was and what she needed to do in order to be safe.

2.)  Plan out the daily type 1 diabetes routine.  This was absolutely the best thing that we did.  Together with another family who is also living with type 1 diabetes, we were able to not only tour the school and learn the route to seven classes from our child's locker, but also, to define clear cut areas and times for the kids to test their blood sugar.  This was extremely comforting for all of us.  This eliminated any awkwardness from the kids wondering if it was OK to stop what they were doing or to be concerned about having a 'tardy' - (which for diabetes care related time, there are no tardies, however the kids still worry, especially oldest daughter who abides carefully to school rules.)  This is a huge stressor and one that we wanted to reduce before there was a concern. 

3.)  Send an email to the teachers to confirm that they are aware that your child has type 1 diabetes.  I wasn't fully aware of the need to communicate, and then, to communicate some more.  This is so important.  In our situation, the assistant principal sent out the health care plan, a picture of our daughter and the 504 information to each of the teachers.  Somehow, in the midst of this communication, it became clear that a few of the teachers had missed the message.  I handled this by doing two things... (read further below)

4.)  Be a stalker.  Ok, not really.  However, if you happen to be in the school because you are rehearsing #2 and a teacher happens to be in their room, prepping for school to start, crash in on them (politely) and introduce your child.  Yes, become that kind of a parent.  It might seem strange at first, but it became clear that the teacher was relieved to have met our oldest daughter and to know ahead of time that she was bring type 1 diabetes along to school.  In this way, there were no surprises and (I think) there was a bit of relief over the concern of how to handle our child's care from the teacher.

5.)  Go to Parent Night.  Yes, it is drag to have to go to another school event where there are 100s of parents waiting for exactly 12 seconds to talk to a teacher.  My dear friend Amy, a pro at raising junior high kids that live with type 1 diabetes, explained that instead of waiting to speak to the teachers, she drops off a letter identifying who her child is, provides an overview of type 1 diabetes and how her child reacts to hyper and hypoglycemia.  Brilliant!  I did this and received two complimentary emails from teachers that said it helped them to understand better and that they were happy to have such an easy to read sheet.  Thank you, Amy!!!

Back to our final 504 meeting; After every question was answered and the table was full of grinning teachers, relaxed staff and our oldest daughter was fully at ease, we left the group with one last thought:

Now that you know all about type 1 diabetes and how our oldest daughter manages her care, we hope that you can see beyond to what a great kid she is.  Type 1 diabetes is just one part of her and we hope that you enjoy discovering all of her talents, her enthusiasm and her joy of learning.  Thanks for being a part of her seventh grade experience!

Hope you are all having a wonderful start to the school year!

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