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Planning and communication are key to keeping students with diabetes, asthma and other conditions safe at school
Devin uses a glucose meter to check his blood sugar. He brings a kit
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BY DONYA CURRIE
FOR THE FREE LANCE-STAR
Kayla Geller and Devin Dunn are like the thousands of area kids returning to school in the next week or two, but along with new pencils, notebooks and scissors, they'll go back with specialized medical plans designed to keep them healthy and safe at school.
Devin, 6, heads to first grade wearing an insulin pump to manage his Type 1 diabetes, and Kayla, 7, has an asthma inhaler on hand in the school nurse's office in case she has breathing difficulty during the school day.
Their parents have filled out paperwork detailing each child's medical needs, and the paperwork is kept on file at school. Most importantly, school officials say, there's an open dialogue among the parents, the school nurse, each child's teacher and the school administration.
Communication is critical when a child's medical condition needs monitoring at school, said Kathy Whitby, school nurse manager for Stafford County public schools.
"We're not really control freaks," Whitby said. "We just want to understand what's best for the students and how to get there."
Every local school system has specific forms and policies to help children with special medical needs.
The most common ailment school nurses deal with is asthma, said Whitby. But there are kids such as Devin who have diabetes, and others with life-threatening allergies, just to name two of the other health concerns that often crop up on school grounds.
DOING THEIR HOMEWORK
Communication with the parents is important at every grade level, Whitby said. While high school might seem a time when students can take care of their own medical needs, for example, that's exactly when some need more supervision, she said.
The transition from childhood to adolescence can be a trying time for any student, and those with medical concerns sometimes need extra support, Whitby said.
No matter what a student's age, parents have to be their child's advocates.
"We have open communication with the school, and the teachers are very perceptive," Kayla Geller's father, Todd Geller, said about the staff at Hartwood Elementary in Stafford County.
Kayla's asthma is a tricky case because she doesn't require medication daily but can suffer a flare-up, especially during cold and flu season.