Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back-to-School Checklist for Nut-Free Parents

By now most of us have bought our backpacks, pencils, shoes and other school must-haves, but as we know, nut-free parents have a few more items to cross off our lists before sending out little darlings out the door.

School starts next week for many of us, so I thought now would be a good time to offer a "short" (ha, ha!) checklist of things to do before the Big Day. New students (kindergarten) and those of us who will be entering a new school due to a move (like me!) will want to do the following:
  • Speak with the principal (preferably in person) to let them know your family's needs. Ask them if they can include an item in the first parents' newsletter about food allergies at school and basic precautions to take (offer to write it, if they don't have time.)
  • Work out a cafeteria plan if necessary. For example, will there be a dedicated peanut-free table? If not, what precautions will be taken for your child's safety? Can you introduce a peanut-free table if one does not yet exist, for kids who haven't brought peanut butter or nut products?
  • Find out (from health office or principal) who is trained in EpiPen usage.
  • Speaking of EpiPens--make sure your prescription is current and that you sign up for the new EpiPen registery (a form is included in your prescription.) It lets you know when your Epis are about to expire.
  • Have at least 2 EpiPens for school--one for the health office and one for your child's classroom.
  • Invest in a fanny pack or pencil case with attachment for your child to carry their EpiPen in.
  • Make sure you have all of your doctor's notes and food allergy action plans filled out and ready to go. If you need to, initiate a meeting with the school nurse or district nurse to discuss emergency procedures. Include a recent photo of your child that can be glued/taped onto their emergency plan.
  • Write a letter to your child's new teacher explaining their condition and offering to be the "Treats Lady" for the school year. If you're not the Room Mother, get her name, phone number and e-mail so you can contact her about food before the first class party.
  • If your school allows birthday party treats in the classroom (our new school doesn't!), make sure you send a "treats bag" with safe goodies with your child on their first day.
Whew! That's my list...what do some of you have on yours? If I left out anything important, please let me know!

I know it's a lot to take care of, but you know what? Looking over this list, I'm kind of proud of how much I've already done and how, now that I've done it for so many years, it's not that big of a deal. Progress!

If I've stressed anyone out, I think Mamma Mia! is still in theaters. (OK, just kidding!) Anyone up for a martini yet? It'll be OK. Just be thankful we only have to do this once a year!

6 comments:

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

martinis sound good.

Lessee: have a team meeting with the teachers, front office staff and admin about allergies. Hand out the kid's Individual Health Plan, sneak in a quick Epi training and talk about places where food shows up (lunch, snack, birthdays, class projects) and alternatives, ways to create safe risks, etc.

Hand them a copy of an age-appropriate allergy book (for the kids, of course) and a copy of the FAAN cookbook. Be room parent. Again. (sigh)

Hand them a box of Cherrybrook Kitchen cupcake mix and a safe snack list with a big note at the top saying that you have to read the ingredients each and every time.

Review diaper wipes at the door upon arrival, handwashing after meals, etc. Discuss egg-containing art supplies, and alternatives for those.

Look very, very calm, hold my voice firmly in the 'reasonable' setting. Crack the occasional joke.

Promise myself a very large scotch later that night.

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

martinis sound good.

Lessee: have a team meeting with the teachers, front office staff and admin about allergies. Hand out the kid's Individual Health Plan, sneak in a quick Epi training and talk about places where food shows up (lunch, snack, birthdays, class projects) and alternatives, ways to create safe risks, etc.

Hand them a copy of an age-appropriate allergy book (for the kids, of course) and a copy of the FAAN cookbook. Be room parent. Again. (sigh)

Hand them a box of Cherrybrook Kitchen cupcake mix and a safe snack list with a big note at the top saying that you have to read the ingredients each and every time.

Review diaper wipes at the door upon arrival, handwashing after meals, etc. Discuss egg-containing art supplies, and alternatives for those.

Look very, very calm, hold my voice firmly in the 'reasonable' setting. Crack the occasional joke.

Promise myself a very large scotch later that night.

Jenny said...

Hi--Thanks for your great tips! I like all of your ideas (scotch included!) esp. the part about keeping calm and stating the medical facts.

I understand why you want to provide the Cherrybrook mix and the FAAN cookbook, but who's going to cook this stuff? I don't trust the non-allergic families to do it, just because of cross-contam issues.

Also, you shouldn't have to be Room Mother each year. I still haven't--I volunteer my services as "Treats Lady" at the start of the year and that seems to have worked out OK. I know others have had some bad "room mother" experiences, but I'm all about equality on this one! Just because our kids have food allergies doesn't mean we're great at throwing classroom parties, ya know what I mean? :)

Miryam (mama o' the matrices) said...

I hand them a 'allergies in the classroom' handout, which includes food prep. They wipe the food prep surfaces well, wash hands, wash all utensils/food prep items, and then go to work.

Typically, I volunteer to help bake once, and then we're all set.

And I agree! I shouldn't have to be room mama each year. (ever see a dad do it? hm) But the Eldest is only 1 year into the school and they're still figuring out kinks. I think of it as a training period: by third grade, say, the school will have this down cold. And so will most of the parents.

And you betcha that the snack list has suggestions like safe puddings and popsicles for birthdays!

Our school has a everybody-eats birthday policy, so the food needs to be safe for everybody. They don't have a peanut-free school (not that this would help me), but they do have an allergy-friendly classroom. Lunch is eaten outside, all snacks and celebratory items are safe for EVERYONE.

Neat, eh? And takes a lot of stress of the teachers, who would otherwise be worrying about kid X with the dairy on his hands, and did he wash up before going near Dairy Allergy Kid? One class, one snack - everybody eats.

gotta love it. Except if you are the person sweating over the snack list.

Lori said...

Great suggestions above! I would also check with your school district to see if they have a food allergy policy that your school may not be aware of. Also check with the school district's special needs department. They may have someone assigned to help parents work with you and your school on getting your needs met.

Kristin Beltaos, M.A. said...

While I do my teacher/staff/principal meeting, I also like to ask when the field trips are planned for the year. It enables me to schedule in advance so that either my husband or I can plan on chaperoning the trip.

In addition, I also provide the teachers a list of safe snacks/treats that parents can bring in for special treat days. Many of the teachers have appreciated this and they pass the information along to the parents so that they know what is a safe treat for the room. On the list I include the brand name of the product as well.