“That school is too far from home.”
As the college acceptance letters started coming in, we wondered whether our son’s recent type 1 diabetes diagnosis would influence his decision on which school to attend. When he decided on an in-state school, we were certain that it did – that he wanted to be closer to mom and dad.
It turns out we were delusional. What he really wanted was to be closer to his girlfriend.
Yes, we were a bit crestfallen (it’s always nice to feel needed), but we weren’t about to stop parenting. So while Kelan was enjoying his final days of high school, we began reaching out to offices and departments at his future educational institution so we could make sure resources were available to help him in the fall, and so we could be in the best position to help from afar, if needed.
If you have a child with type 1 diabetes going off to college, I highly recommend you do this, too. Here’s a few tips about what to ask with student health services:
1. Make sure your child brings their medical records with them to school. It is unlikely that the school will have access to those records electronically.
2. If you child is 18, make sure they complete the form that allows their doctor to talk with you about their care – this form will go into medical records they bring to school, so health services staff will also have permission to talk to you.
3. It’s a good idea for your child to visit their college’s health center before classes (and other college activities) begin, and to meet with the staff member at the center who is most knowledgeable about type 1 diabetes.
4. Both you and your child should have an understanding of the services and care that is available on campus and what services will need to be accessed off-campus.
5. Confirm that you child’s vaccinations are up to date. The nurse informed me that there was an outbreak of meningitis at the school two years ago, and to confirm that Kelan had gotten the MenB vaccine. He had not, so he got a bonus shot at his annual physical.
We also spoke with Residence Life. This was more of a fishing expedition since we weren’t really sure how Kelan’s type 1 diabetes might impact where he lives on campus, but here are some of the questions we asked:
-Did they recommend that he have a room that’s closer to the bathroom? (No.)
-How about a dorm that was closer to a dining hall? (It can’t hurt to use diabetes to your advantage sometimes!)
-Should potential roommates be informed that they might periodically see Kelan change his CGM or pump site? This seems pretty innocuous compared to multiple daily injections, but there are lots of people, with and without diabetes, who are squeamish about needles and shots.
You can never ask too many questions or do too much legwork in preparation for sending your child with type 1 diabetes off to college. If you are accused (say, by your child) of helicopter parenting, just think of it as preparing now to be able to back off more once school starts.