I've been hearing from many readers about school-related issues lately and one of the most frequent issues that pops up is dealing with a teacher who has never dealt with nut allergies. This is becoming less frequent of an occurence, but it still happens.
In fact, it happened to our family. My daughter's first grade teacher had been teaching for 20+ years and was a lovely person. However, she had never had a peanut-allergic student. Terror raced through my body when I first spoke to her and got this news. With my daughter being so young, I was especially concerned.
Despite my initial worries, this teacher turned out to be a great supporter of our daughter and the time spent in the class went really well. In fact, the teacher decided to speak of our daughter's allergy to the entire class (with our go-ahead, of course) and she even shared her own medical issues (asthma) with the class. She showed them her inhaler and then discussed Alexandra's Epi Pen. It was only one example of how well she handled the whole thing.
However, I know that teachers new to nut allergies are sometimes completely freaked out by the situation. I've had other adults I've had to help learn about nut allergies and here is what has worked for me.
Discuss symptoms. Many people are afraid they won't recognize an allergic reaction when they see one. Give a list of explicit symptoms to look out for and what steps to take. Food Allergy Emergency Action Plans are a great tool for this. You can find them at the FAAN website.
Emphasize that you are the teacher's partner. Explaining how you will help throughout the school year, either by providing safe treats, volunteering at field trips or pitching in at a party shows you are involved. If you have a busy work schedule and can't always volunteer, checking in before major events for a review is really helpful.
Educate the educator. Some teachers have no idea of the basics of a food allergy so don't leave them in the dark. Refer them to the FAAN website, provide them with brochures from your allergist or feel free to send them to this blog so they can understand what they are dealing with. Every adult I've shared info with has really appreciated getting the knowledge.
Keep the lines of communication open all year. Teachers are human; with all the other kids they have to care for, sometimes they will forget the allergy protocol. Don't assume the worst. If a slip-up occurs, schedule time to discuss the situation in a non-accusatory manner. The teacher wants the school year to go smoothly as much as you do and reminders are something you should anticipate. I've never had only one conversation about food allergies with any of my child's teachers. It's an ongoing discussion.
Now it's your turn. What has (or hasn't) worked for you? Let us know!