Wednesday, September 10, 2008

How's School So Far??

Many of us have had school in session for at least a week now and I am curious to see how things have been going. Also, I've been getting several e-mails and posts regarding school issues. It seems that this is the big thing on all of our minds right now! (Of course, besides our increasingly "interesting" political landscape, but that's a whole 'nother blog!) :)

As many of you know, my kids started a new school this year and I had a LOT of anxiety about how the whole nut allergy thing would be handled. I know that my daughter was anxious about how the other kids would regard her allergies.

I'm happy to report that so far, so good. Of course, it's early yet but I feel pretty good about the school is handling things. For example, when I needed to change my daughter's food allergy emergency plan a bit, they responded positively and quickly. Before school even began, I was asked to meet with all of the 3rd grade staff to discuss my daughter's allergies. Her classmates have been great, too. All the girls like her "fashionable" pink-and-red allergy ID bracelet, which certainly helped her get over her self-consciousness about wearing it!

We've only been in school for two weeks, but already we've been hit with a lot of decisions and issues related to food allergies (and yes, I'm the 3rd grade Treats Mom again this year!), so I'm sure some of you have some stories to share. Has anything unusual cropped up for you? How are you handling it?

And let's not forget the teachers. They're a big part of our food allergy "team" and I hope we all are having a positive experience working with them. Some of them are old pros at the allergy thing and some are learning for the first time, but they all care about kids and they can be some of our best allies at school.

7 comments:

Jennifer B said...

I am glad to hear things are going ok there on the allergy front. My PA son is in preschool (peanut-free) these days. He brings a snack from home while the rest of the class eats "peanut-free" (it's all how you look at it) snacks provided by the school. Everything is going great. Just one odd thing. He has had hives above his lip 2 times this week, at home. I am not sure what is causing it, and it's a little disturbing. I'll just have to keep tabs on it! But school seems to be just fine. The teacher even checked about the homemade playdough she made, to make sure there'd be no problem. The kids wash hands when they enter school and before snack. No complaints here! It's elementary school that scares the dickens out of me...

Jennifer said...

Jenny,

What sorts of things do you have in place at your school? Does your school have a school nurse that helps you coordinate things?? My twins started kindergaren this year, and after spending some time at the school, I don't think there is any way it could possibly be made safe for him. I would love to hear how you have handled your schools.

Thanks
Jennifer

Elaine said...

We found a preschool that actually gets it. Love your blog.

LISE said...

The school nurse already met my son to check his Epipen. I already received the intervention plan and noticed that the bus driver is now included in the list of people that will be teached how to administrate the Epipen. It is a very good new especially for younger students.

Jenny said...

Jennifer,

I want to respond to your question about school and how I handled it.

I do have several posts on this--if you have time, try the one called "Starting from Square One at School" (archived in my February 2008 posts) or the one from August called "Back-to-School Checklist for Nut-Free Parents."

But to sum up, I would say: communicate with the teacher and principal to discuss anything you're not comfortable with. It always helps to have data to back you up--esp. a note from the doctor stating the severity of your child's allergies. Offer solutions that you feel would help and then show them how it would work in practice. For ex., you can bring all of the food for classroom parties so that there's no risk of accidental ingestion of allergenic food. You can ask them to institute hand-washing policies (my school does it both for allergies and also to help the spread of illness) and offer to provide the classroom with handwipes.

As far as having a nurse on the premises: so far, I've never had one, only a "health aide." However, these people were trained in food allergies and EpiPen usage and also reported to a district nurse. Ask them what they know about food allergies. Make sure they know what it looks like when your child reacts, etc. I've found my health aides to be knowledgeable and helpful.

The bottom line, I've found, is that you are not going to have one conversation about this. You may need to speak to several people or the same people at different times during the year. So don't be discouraged. I'm always pleasant and friendly but I let them know I care and will follow up--believe me, that goes a long way.

Every parent has a different comfort level with acceptable "risk" so decide what yours is and then go to the school, armed with information and a doctor's note plus some ideas for implementing your plans.

It's hard--but it can be done! Let us know how it goes--Jenny

Anonymous said...

My school has a written allergy plan that is mailed during the summer to all parents with allergic children. We are required to keep an epi pen and benadryl at the nurse's office along with a written emergency plan signed by the Dr. The school's cafeteria food is nut free although the school is not. There is a nut free table and, if the doctor writes a note requiring it, the classroom will also be nut free (requires contact allergy status). My son is not a contact allergy but his kindergarten teacher unofficially required a nut free classroom for him (on the theory that kindergarten contact and ingestion can go hand in hand).
I provided extra snacks for noncomplying kids (parents) and was on every field trip to make sure he was safe. (On one field trip they went to a farm which had the kids make homemade butter in a peanut butter jar!)
If you are truly having trouble getting your school to comply, you might seek an accomodation for your child under the American with Disabilities act, at the very least it will get the attention of someone who can help alleviate true dangers for your child.

Jenny said...

Now I've heard everything--making peanut butter during a field trip when they have a severely peanut-allergic kid in the class??

I give you credit for even letting your child attend that field trip--I may not have done so if I were in that position.

Thanks for sharing your story and good advice about schools!--Jenny