Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Part 4: Going to School: Questions to have a Safe Education Experience.

Welcome to the fourth and final part of the Coping with Food Allergy series.  Check here if you have missed any of the previous post. This post is all about going to school. Going to school can be a very frightening experience for a food allergic family. You have to put the safety of your child in the hands of others. With planning and open minded staff and teachers your child's school experience can be much less stressful.

End of the School Year Check List:

If possible, the transition into the new school year starts the year before. The beginning of the school year is so crazy that I feel it's important to start the communication and education the year before.

  • Have a meeting with the school nurse (if applicable) and the principal every school year.  
  • Get all paperwork that will need to be turned in at the beginning of the school year. 
  • Go over any issues from the previous year and any policy changes. 
  • Request to find out your child's teacher for the new year or at least have you email past onto the new teacher so they can contact you.
  • Request a meeting right before school starts to go over any concerns and policy

Beginning of the School Year Check List:

  • Have a meeting with the school nurse (if applicable) and the principal.  If possible, have your child's new teacher attend the meeting.
  • Go over all paperwork.
  • Have a checklist of questions and issues.  Check here or here for more sample checklist. Keep and revise your list for each year.  There are some ideas to consider when making a checklist
    •  Where are emergency medication stored and who has access to them.
    • What are the emergency procedures for the school
    • What are the snack and food policies for the classroom. Are they willing to make the room a non-food treat classroom?
    • How are other adults (i.e. volunteers, substitute, student teacher, high school aids) informed and trained about child allergy?
    • All families in classroom should be informed about allergy information. This is usually a principal letter that goes out the first day of school.
    • School Bus policy regarding food and emergencies
    • School policy on bullying.
    • Discuss type of rewards given by all teachers. 
    • Lunchroom policies. How are tables cleaned? Will child have a designated seat?
    • Food in the curriculum. How will parent be notified and will food be avoided in lesson plans.
      • Signs for classroom.
      • Pack a safe snack box for your child's classroom, so they have something safe to eat at any time.

    Through out the School Year:

    • Keep lines of communication open with your child's teacher.  This is the most important thing to do. 
    • Don't be afraid to talk with the teacher or principal if things are not safe.
    • If things are not going well you can submit a Section 504 Plan.

    One big key with keeping your child safe at school is education.  Use the resources available to help educate the people caring for your child. Most people are very understand and want to keep children safe. You might run into that person(s) that just are to stubborn to use an open mind and commonsense to keep all children safe and that's when policies and procedures will help protect your child.

    I hope this series on Coping with Food Allergies has been helpful.  Eduction is the key to living with food allergies. Spread the word to help keep these children safe.

    Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The posts on this blog do not constitute medical and/or legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Always discuss individual health questions, concerns and medical issues with a qualified personal physician. 

    1 comment:

    1. Thank you - it has been helpful, and very interesting :-)

      I've been lucky so far in that I work part-time at the school my kids attend, so I can keep a closer eye on things than most. Even so, my repeated requests to ask all parents to not include nuts in their children's packed lunches have been ignored :-(

      Next year my son goes to secondary school, and that's worrying me. We have an appointment with the allergy clinic before he starts, and it'll be the same school nurse so we'll have that continuity, but he'll be much more responsible for his own food safety - carrying his own Epipens, etc - and I'll be a lot less involved than I've been used to, so these notes will be particularly useful. Thanks so much for putting all these posts together x