All three of my girls went back to school yesterday. I know for some of you, your kids have been in school for a month or so. The beginning of a new school year brings excitement, but also much anxiety for kids with food allergies and their parents. We send our kids off to be monitored by other adults that don’t always understand our situation fully. Most of them can’t fully understand our situation because they aren’t in it. Schools have protocols set in place for kids with multiple food allergies, you can request a 504 plan that states your childs needs and all of the ways your child will need services and/or support with their food allergies. The school nurse typically contacts the parents to get more information, collects the necessary medication (epinephrine, benadryl, etc.), and stores these items unless your child can carry their meds themselves.
I have found that there are several other steps that I like to take to ensure the safety and health of my three girls and their food allergies and intolerances. These are things that I have learned over time and hope they are helpful for you. If I missed something, feel free to let me know. This list is how I have worked mostly with teachers and not the school in general. I mentioned a few ways to work with the school above, but that is not what I am writing about today. All of the teachers are informed of students in their classes that have severe allergies. What I have found is that most teachers don’t know any information beyond that. Here is a list of things that I talk to the teacher directly about.
1. Tell the teacher exactly what food/s my daughter is allergic or intolerant to. I haven’t had any of my daughters teachers know the specific foods they are allergic or intolerant to. It is very important that the teacher knows exactly what foods my daughters can and can’t eat. With this, it is not their job to monitor my daughter and what she chooses to eat. This is to make sure that the teacher is aware and when they need to be extra vigilant. It is my job to ensure that my daughters have food that is safe for them while they are at school. This puts my mind and the teachers at ease.
2. Tell the teacher exactly what reactions my daughter has to each food. This is extremely important. Food reactions have such a wide range of severity and how they present themselves. Even with anaphylaxis allergies the reactions and how they present themselves can be very different from person to person and with different foods. This is a time to educate the teacher and to really know what symptoms should be of concern to them. I never assume the teacher knows what to look for or be concerned about.
3. On the first day of school I come with a box of cookies that are safe for each of my daughters to keep in the classroom. There are so many parties and other events that include dessert that I make sure my girls aren’t left out. Some birthdays happen right after school starts so I make sure they are prepared from day one. My daughters or their teachers let me know when their cookie supply is running low.
4. I request that the teacher let me know in advanced when they will be having activities that include food other than birthdays. There are several parties throughout the school year that involve pizza, ethnic food, popcorn, 5th grade camp (two days overnight), etc. I let the teacher know that I will always provide food for my daughters that is the same as what the other kids will be having or something similar. This ensures that my girls aren’t left out and they have safe food for them.
5. I request to teach in the class about food allergies. I did this last year because my middle daughter was having issues with kids in her class not being safe or kind to those with food allergies. It was a great way for me to educate the kids and teachers in my daughters classes. The majority of people don’t understand the severity of food allergies or understand the consequences of cross contamination. The teachers really appreciated me coming in, learned a lot, and requested that I come in the following year as well. Education goes a long way with people.
6. Check in. I check in regularly with my daughters and their teachers to see how everything is going. Is my daughter almost out of cookies in the classroom? Do you have any questions or concerns? How are my daughters feeling about their food allergies and intolerances at school? Is there anything I can do to make this easier?
I hope these are some helpful tips when sending your precious kids to school that have food allergies. It can be tough, but it can be done. Let me know if there is anything I missed or another topic you would like me to cover. Happy to school year to you all!
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