Preparing for the School Year | The Food Sensitive ShopperThe Food Sensitive Shopper
Are you prepared?
Can you believe it? The start of the school year is right around the corner now that August is here. Preparing for school when your child is food allergic, has celiac disease, or a food intolerance is not as easy as finding all of the school supplies on your child’s shopping list. Today we would like to help you prepare to educate, advocate and spread awareness about your child’s food sensitivity (allergy, celiac disease or other) with their teacher(s), school staff, and administration.
Here are some resources to help you get the message across:
Book for your child’s teacher(s) – Food Allergies & Schools: A Pocketguide for Educators by Allergy Free Table
Download for teachers – Celiac Disease: Teachers’ Info by the Celiac Canada Association
Web page for parents – AllergicChild.com explains 504 plans
Web page for parents and teachers – 504 Plan Outline by FoodAllergyAdvocate.com
Web page and online course for teachers – How to care for students with anaphylaxis by Allergy Ready
Food Intolerance? Learning may be at stake
If your child has a food sensitivity or intolerance sometimes there may be more complacency from school faculty and staff because they may feel the condition is not life threatening therefore not as serious. It is important to remind teachers that children have difficulty learning when they are not feeling well after eating. Whether it is food that causes gas, bloating, or other mild symptoms these symptoms can be distracting to a child and interfere with paying attention, behavior, and staying on task. We suggest that parents meet with your child’s teacher(s), kitchen manager, and the nurse explaining the situation and how they can assist. Don’t be afraid to mention that you don’t want your child feeling left out just because he or she has a food sensitivity (that goes for all food related disease).
In the past we have done the following:
- Created a letter for teachers to send home to parents about the care needed for our child with multiple food allergies and how to have a safe learning environment
- Met with teachers before each school year to discuss food allergy prevention, recognition, and treatment
- Provided a ‘safe’ snack list
- Sent safe snacks for celebrations in a large plastic, sealed container that was labeled with our child’s name
- Attached a bag tag with a current photo of our son and a list of allergens to his lunch box
- Sent in safe treats for the entire class for parties so our son would feel like part of the crowd rather than isolated
- Given each teacher a copy of the Food Allergies & Schools: Pocket Guide for Educators book (even the substitute teachers have commented on how it raised their awareness)
- Thanked each teacher, aide, paraprofessional, parents, and our son’s friends whenever they took steps to make him feel included and safe during parties, at lunch, and on field trips.
- Volunteered in the classroom, on field trips, and during special events as much as possible
- Advocated for inclusiveness at school, scouts, and sports teams
Sometimes the task of informing the school faculty and staff can be challenging. My biggest advice to parents to promote allergy safety and awareness for their child is to be calm, informative, supportive and open minded. Of course, there may be times you get angry and defensive. We have in the past and are now selective with our battles. Our philosophy is educate first. It has worked for us 99% of the time.
Many schools, both public and private, have individual health plans to detail each student’s overall health condition, medications needed, care for chronic disease or disability, contact information, and symptoms. Be sure to fill out all paperwork and have medications newly refilled, labeled, and in the proper packaging for the nurse or health tech on the first day of school or the week before if allowed.
The first day of school can make a child nervous, anxious, sad or scary. Being prepared to educate and advocate is your best tool for success.
Helen Moore, The Food Allergy Therapist, and I recorded a podcast for parents titled ‘Back to School: Get the Jitters Out’. Take some time to listen in before you send your child to school next month (and for some of us in 2 and 1/2 weeks!). This is a great podcast for parents sending their children to school for the first time and are managing food allergies, intolerance or celiac disease. It can also help parents whose children are transitioning to a new school as well as returning to school to a new classroom and teacher.
PODCAST – Back to School: Get the Jitters Out
If you would like to talk with Helen about anxiety or other mental health issues that need attention please contact her at: Jay@food.com
If you have questions or concerns about classroom management send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will help guide you through whatever hurdles you have to jump through to create an allergy aware classroom and school. I hope we have put you on the path to creating a safe school environment for your child.