Back to school so soon!?
Tomorrow is August 1st and I’m sure many of you are thinking one of two things. The first is: my baby, in Kindergarten ALREADY? And if your child has been in school you know its time for the epi-pen, the school action plan, the 504 meeting (read more about what a 504 is here by Dr. Wood), updating the nurse, and meeting the teachers.
Here’s our month by month plan:
JUNE/JULY: Check in with your allergist. Will you do a food challenge this year? Has anything with your child changed? How’s the asthma? Is the Medic-Alert bracelet up to date?
JULY/AUGUST: Order Epi-Pen (by Dey) two pack + albuterol. Make sure the Allergist has given you refills because in September, you’ll fill them again. An epi-pen is one medication that cannot be ordered on the online pharmacies for a three month supply. So keep in mind, you’ll need to get one every 30 days until you have enough for 1. child, 2. school and 3. home. Note: Always open the bag and look at the expiration on the side of the box – it should be 18 months from the time you purchase it, if it says anything different, hand it back to the pharmacy and request another.
AUGUST: Late August is when the school staff returns for the beginning of the school year. This is a good time to get to know them. Walk in IN PERSON. Introduce yourself with your biggest smile you can muster, tell them your child is so excited to be going to school (even if you have incredible anxiety!), and that you need to discuss her medical needs with the nurse, 504 coordinator and head of the building (this can be various people – ranging from an Asst. Principal, to the head of the cafeteria) – you understand this can’t be done today, but let’s see when a good time is. I usually take this moment to stress how flexible I am, I can come anytime that is good for everyone. I also fill out all paperwork early, making sure to fill out the blue emergency card completely.
SEPTEMBER: My child self-carries, so I make sure her medications are up to date and in a small pouch in her bag (check out these really cool monster pouches on Etsy.com by Zomb). Of course, if your child is a little older, you may want to get a cool pouch (check out these pouches by cbhstudio.com.) I introduce myself to the teacher and reach out to others letting them know I’m available for any questions, and also available to go on school trips, contribute food for parties, etc.
SEPTEMBER: Our school meeting usually includes the nurse, the guidance counselor, and the Asst. Principal. In the past the teachers have all been at the meeting. We go over our child’s allergens, what to do in the event of an emergency, an approach to class parties (please call us in advance, if not, then don’t single her out of there’s nothing for her to eat, etc.), field trips, science class and any other issues that may arise. We make the meeting QUICK, 15 minutes, tops, respecting everyone’s time.
If your child is going into Kindergarten you may want to ask yourself the following questions (also, please reference this article from Kids With Food Allergies Foundation):
1. How contact reactive is my child?
2. Does or has my child reacted to airborne food proteins? If so, what were they?
3. Does my child self-advocate? (FAAN has a great Food Allergy buddy program called Protect A Life or PAL.)
4. Is there a nurse full-time at the school? If not, who will your child go to if they feel sick?
If your child is going into Middle School/High School:
1. Will my child be accepted by their peers?
2. What do I need to tell my child about food fights?
3. What do I need to tell my child about kissing or unwanted hugging?
4. Our child outgrew the medic-alert bracelet and doesn’t want to wear one. What now?
Watch this Anaphylaxis Canada video about teens and high school:
And lastly, if you’re feeling isolated, overwhelmed or confused – reach out! There are many support groups all over the United States – check out this list of support groups on the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network’s(FAAN – foodallergy.org) web site. If you can’t find a support group, or if you’re not a support group kind of person, peer-to-peer support can be found online at Kids With Food Allergies Foundation. Also, I highly recommend reading my good friend’s book ALLERGIC GIRL by Sloane Miller, Food Allergy Coach, Author and Advocate. Her blog is also worth reading “Please Don’t Pass The Nuts” .
***edited to add: If you feel like you are not getting anywhere or are nervous about dealing with your school, consider hiring an advocate – this link explains what an advocate can do for you. NOTE: I do not know this person nor have I used her services. I do know Linda Coss, food allergy expert and writer of many books, and she was interviewed on a podcast (video) here on the topic of kids and schools. The video may also be helpful.***
Enjoy the rest of the summer, see you in the fall!