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Classroom Presentation on Diabetes for Elementary School Age Children

  • Be sure that the school, the family and the child with diabetes are comfortable with the idea of a classroom presentation.  Decide the date, time, place, and format of the presentation with the school and child in advance.  
  • Your child may want to help the presenter choose the specific topics to be discussed.  Some children may also want to assist with presenting the information, while others may prefer to be part of the audience.  The idea is to create an open, accepting environment in the classroom, not to make any child feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.  There should not be any surprises for the child on the day of the presentation.
  • Keep the presentation brief—a maximum of 15-20 minutes, including a question and answer period.  Children are more likely to absorb information that is presented in a brief, concise format.
  • More information is not necessarily better.  Provide simple basic facts to begin with.  Offer more detailed information only as the children ask for it, and they may not.
  • Most children find it less embarrassing to have a doll or stuffed animal be the focus of a presentation.  Simply find a doll or stuffed animal that the child likes and attach a medical identification bracelet to the arm. 
  • Bring a diabetes play kit rather than using the child’s actual care kit for demonstration.  A play diabetes care kit could include:  Needless lancing device, needless syringe, an old bottle of insulin, alcohol wipes, a glucose meter, expired test strips, and a juice box or glucose tablets.
  • Prepare for the question and answer period prior to arriving at the school.  It is a good idea to contact one of your medical providers to review the basic information several weeks before the scheduled presentation.

Suggested Presentation Outline

Define Diabetes

  • Everyone needs something called insulin to help the body use energy from food to grow, play, and feel healthy.  Most people have insulin already inside their bodies.  When kids have diabetes, they don’t have any insulin in their bodies, so they have to get the insulin from an injection or an insulin pump instead.
  • Diabetes is a funny word.  It sounds like “Die-a-beat-ees”, but we don’t expect children to die from having diabetes (presenter may want to spell the word on the blackboard for school-age children).
  • People can’t catch diabetes like a cold or flu.
  • Eating too much sugar does not cause diabetes.
  • Doing something or thinking something does not cause diabetes.
  • Nobody did anything wrong to get diabetes.

How to Take Care of Diabetes (Appropriate time to bring out props):

  • A person with diabetes either takes insulin with injections (Demonstrate on a doll/stuffed animal with needless syringe and plastic bottle of insulin) or a person with diabetes can get insulin with a machine called an insulin pump.
  • A person with diabetes checks blood several times a day from a finger to make sure there is just the right amount of insulin in the body (Demonstrate on a doll/stuffed animal with needless lancing device and a meter).
  • If the number is high, the doll/stuffed animal may need insulin.
  • If the number is low, the doll/stuffed animal may need juice or a snack.
  • If the number is in the middle, the doll/stuffed animal doesn’t need anything and can keep playing.
  • Assure children that the body will never run out of blood from finger checks since new blood is always being made inside the body.
  • Insulin injections and finger checks feel different to everyone.  Some children say it feels like a pinch or a bug bite. 
  • It’s important for kids with diabetes to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks so that they have enough energy to run, play, and learn.  Kids with diabetes can usually have the same kind of foods that everyone else eats, as long as they check with an adult and make sure there is enough insulin in the body to work with the food. 
  • Children with diabetes should wear a special bracelet that lets people know they have diabetes and they need insulin to stay healthy.

Open the Discussion for Questions and Exploration:

  • Field questions one at time.  If a question comes up during the presentation that is difficult to answer, tell the children, “I don’t know the answer to that, but I will find out.”   Write down the question and let the children know that you will contact the medical team and send an answer to their classroom as soon as possible.
  • Once questions seem to be finished, pass the needless diabetes play kit around for the class to see and touch. This will take some of the mystery out of the equipment.

Common Questions and Examples of Appropriate Answers:

  • Is diabetes contagious?
    No, you cannot catch diabetes like a cold or the flu.  It is fine to sit next to and play with any child who has diabetes.
  • Why did this happen?
    Doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out why diabetes happens.  In the mean time, we do know exactly how to take care of diabetes with insulin, checking blood sugars, eating healthy foods, exercising, and visiting the doctor a few times a year for check-ups.
  • Can someone die from diabetes?
    We do not expect children to die from diabetes.  As long as kids with diabetes check their blood sugars, take insulin, eat healthy, and visit their doctor's office for check-ups, we expect them to grow up healthy and strong just like everyone else.
  • Do the finger checks or insulin needles hurt?
    Some kids say they feel a very small pinch and some kids say that they don't feel anything at all.
  • Will kids run out of blood from checking their blood sugar too much?
    The body will  never run out of blood from checking blood sugars.  New blood is always being made inside the body.  Whenever kids need to take a little blood out to measure blood sugar or other tests during a doctor visit, the body replaces it all.
  • Another student may say that they have a grandparent with diabetes that is very sick.  Diabetes treatments have changed a lot and today's modern medicines help keep people healthy.  The grandparent may have other health problems or have had diabetes before the medicines we have today.
  • Why can't insulin be taken by mouth?
    Insulin has to enter the blood to work.  The insulin would not work if it was swallowed, because it would get broken apart inside the stomach, just like your food gets broken up when you eat it.

Helpful Book

The book "Taking Diabetes to School" by Kim Gosselin may be helpful for those families and/or teachers who wish to discuss type 1 diabetes in the classroom.  This book is appropriate for children ages 5-10 years old.  Some families may choose to read just certain sections from this book, or another children's book to make it more appropriate for younger children or to more closely reflect your child's own experience. 

Page last updated: October 24, 2014