Your little one has been under your protective watch 24/7 for over four years. Now, you have to hand them off to someone else. You envision spending your days in the school parking lot, peeking in windows, hiding on the playground. I know, I’ve been there. I’ve peeked, stalked and on occasion “checked in”.
Thinking about all that needs to be done before your little one steps foot on the bus or in the school this fall can be, to say the least, overwhelming. But, there is a light at the end of this tunnel and communication, eduction and preparation are the key to making this light shine bright.
Call or email your child’s principal and request a meeting with him or her, the school nurse and your child’s teacher. Don’t overwhelm the principal with too many details over the phone just explain that you want to make sure there is a plan in place that will keep your little one safe. If you call, follow up with an email, thanking the principal for their time, reconfirm the date and time and who will be attending. (Take it from me, having a paper trail is important.)
Educate yourself on the options available to you and your child. Most schools, if not all, have emergency action plans in place. This is a form you and your child’s allergist fill out. Often times copies will be kept in the nurses office and the classroom. If your child is attending a public school or a private school that receives funds from the government you can ask for a 504 plan (learn more about 504 plans at https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/special-services/504-plan/understanding-504-plans#item0)
Make sure the teachers and staff are trained to know the signs of anaphylaxis and how to properly administer epinephrine. A great resource to share with the school is: http://allergyready.com
The first day of school may be 2 months away but start preparing now so when the day comes you will be ready to go. Make sure you have a lunch box that is clearly labeled with your child’s name and allergy (we love http://www.flatbox-lunchbox.com). We also put stickers on water bottles (my son does not drink out of a water fountain) and back packs (http://www.allerware.com/store/c13/Stickers.html ). During the first few weeks of school, if not month, have your little one wear a reminder for the teacher. A bracelet that your child cannot remove or temporary tattoo will do the trick (http://www.allerware.com/store/c10/Waterproof_Paper_Bracelets.html ) and (http://www.allerware.com/store/c11/Temporary_Tattoos.html ). Remember, they will be going to art class, gym, music class, and lunch. They will be meeting lots of different people that may need a reminder as to which children have specific needs.
A few additional tips that may help make heading off to school a little easier on you:
Talk to the principal about substitutes. How will substitutes be handled? Are substitutes trained to know the signs and administer epinephrine? Are the bus drivers trained? What is the bus companies’ policy for handling medical emergencies?
How will class trips and class parties be handled? (Our 504 plan states that I go on class trips and am notified at least 48 hours in advance anytime food will be involved in a class activity.)
How will the school notify the other parents of your child’s allergy? Will the teacher write a letter or will the principal? Will the letter go home before school starts or with the student on the first day of school?
A few additional resources that will help as well:
F.A.R.E.’s Tools and Resources for schools: http://www.foodallergy.org/resources/schools
Snack Safely’s list of approved, safe snacks (updated often) http://snacksafely.com/safe-snack-guide/
What Every Parent Must Know About Managing Food Allergies at School - FARE Webinar
Advice from Allergic Living magazine columnist Gina Clowes, who specializes in the needs of parents of children with food allergies. She is the founder of AllergyMoms.com, an online support group serving thousands worldwide. http://allergicliving.com/2012/08/15/help-the-school-get-food-allergies/
AllerWare.com for stickers, temporary tattoos and bracelets
Now, take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the rest of your summer. September will be here before you know it and you will be ready to face that bright light at the end of the tunnel head on!