Monday, April 16, 2012

Food Allergies and School: Stress Less by Planning Ahead

I know we are getting ready for summer, but if you are sending a child with food allergies to a new school next year or even updating your information at your current school, now is the time to get the ball rolling. We received pre-registration forms a  week ago from our school  district; some of you might have gotten the same.

I've learned the hard way: if you wait too long school offices are closed and doctor's office appointments are filled. Sending a child with life-threatening food allergies is stressful enough -- who wants to be shut out of school offices and unable to get in to see the doctor?

You might be wondering what you can do for next year while schools are focused on wrapping up the current year. The answer is: a lot more than you think.

If you  are new to a school or a district, you might need to do some fact-finding. For example, what  is the school's policy regarding food allergy management? You'll want to know the rules for lunch time, snack time (if they have one), parties and field trips. Finding this out now is important because you can anticipate what areas will need the most care and attention from you.

If you are brand new to the school or district, you will also want to introduce yourself to the school principal  and the district nurse. You may discover that you will need to set up a meeting just prior to the school year or complete extra medical forms. If they don't know about you in advance, you could miss out on these important communications so it's a good idea to check in and see what you need to do. They may tell you that this will be taken care of in August, but it's a great idea to get in the loop and onto the school  administrators' radar well before then.

Depending on the district and your child's needs, some  parents may decide that they would like a 504 Plan for their child. These can take a long time to complete, so start finding out what your district requires on your end. A good place to begin is with a call to your district's special needs coordinator. You can find out some more information on 504 Plans by following this Food Allergy Initiative link that provides excellent and detailed information.

In addition to basic registration forms, most schools require several additional forms completed for any child with a chronic medical condition. Our school requires separate forms for asthma  and allergies; your school may want specific and/or extra medical documentation especially if you are requesting allergy-free eating areas in the cafeteria or you would like your child to carry their epinephrine auto-injectors with them during the school  day.

So even though we all have summer fun on the horizon, if you do your homework now, you not only get a more peaceful summer break, you get a smoother school transition in the fall. Sounds good to me!

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