Monday, February 25, 2008

Starting from Square One at School

My family plans to move this fall in order to be closer to my husband's (relatively) new job. We are excited about this move and have been planning it for some time, so that's not an issue. I won't bore you with all the horror stories of a buyer's market, but our plan is that our daughter will be in a new school next year.

As our move gets closer, I've started to realize that, just as my daughter has fears about being in a new school environment, so do I. After all, I've ironed out every last detail with regard to food allergy management with so many people: my daughter's school principal, nurse, teachers and even the parents of her friends. But now I'm going to have to start from the beginning.

I'm not going to lie - even for a seasoned "Nut-Free Mom" like me it's kind of scary. Every school has a different policy (more on this in a future blog entry! :)). For food allergy families, school becomes like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're gonna get.

So, I say, Be prepared, not scared. For allergic families, that's as good a motto as any. You need to talk to the school and find out how the district handles food allergies, pronto, so you can prepare your family for a smooth transition.

If your new district does not yet have a formal policy, I suggest printing out the Wilmette Public Schools food allergy policy and sending it to your district's superintendent of schools as well as the principal. This is the policy that was finally adopted by my daughter's current school district after a small group of parents (including yours truly) brought it to their attention. It's a good one!

Other things you can do to prepare:

1. Work with your doctor to prepare an easy-to-follow action plan. Your school is going to want one of these, first and foremost. If there is ever an emergency, your written plan is what people will follow, so make sure it's thorough and clear. FAAN has food allergy action plans you can download and I suggest filling one out with your doctor ASAP. Then, make copies for the nurse, teachers and whoever else may need one. Include your child's photo for easy identification in the event of substitutes or staff changes.

2. Meet with the principal before the first day. A face-to-face meeting is a great idea that will do a lot to a) show administrators you care and b) attach a human face to your child's medical issues. This is a great time to discuss any questions you have about school policy. Principals are busy people so it doesn't hurt to jot down some"talking points" before you meet. I'd schedule this meeting, if possible, before the end of the current school year.

3. Renew prescriptions and make sure you have enough EpiPens for all staff that require them. The school my daughter attends is relatively large, so she has 3 epinephrine auto-injectors for school: one for the nurse's office, one she carries on her person in a "fanny pack" and one in the cafeteria. That way, no one is racing around looking for one in an emergency.

I'm sure there is more I will think of as I prepare, also, but this is a good start.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a GREAT blog for ANY parent. As the father of a 2 year-old, I am proud to know he attends a Nut-Free daycare facility. However, as a high school teacher, I have learned that ALL schools need to make a concerted effort to re-evaluate their procedures and guidelines on allergies. Thank you for this wonderful resource Jenny!