IDEA is a federal law requiring states to provide a “free, appropriate public education” to children with disabilities so they can be educated whenever possible along with all other children.
A child with diabetes must show they need special education or services to benefit from schooling. An evaluation must show that, because of the child’s diabetes (or other disability), they have a condition that adversely affects their educational performance.
For example, learning when blood sugar levels are either too high or too low may be difficult. If a child is having difficulty managing their blood sugar level, this may affect how well they do in school. Academic progress might also suffer if a child with diabetes misses a significant amount of classroom instruction each day in order to perform diabetes care.
Qualifying children are entitled to special education and related services at no cost to their parents/guardians.
Under IDEA a child may receive special education. This means adapting what and how the curriculum is taught, in order to address the child’s unique needs. The child must have access to the same curriculum so they can meet the same educational standards that apply to all children in that school district. For example, a child with diabetes might need a tutor or a classroom aide to help catch up with missed schoolwork.
A child may also be eligible to receive related services, such as school health services. For example, children with diabetes require there be trained staff available at all times that are knowledgeable about diabetes and the child’s specific plan for diabetes care. Staff must know how to recognize and treat high and low blood sugar levels. Younger children may require assistance in blood glucose checking and administering insulin.
IDEA offers parents numerous protections. These include:
- Parents give consent before evaluation. The school district may request a due process hearing from the state education agency if there is no parental consent.
- Parent may inspect and review all of their child’s education records and participate in meetings about their child.
- Requires notice to parents of decisions and plans before the district puts the proposed actions into effect.
In spite of federal legal protections, however, children with diabetes sometimes face problems in getting the care they need in schools. The types of challenges can vary significantly from state to state, or even district to district.