You might be thinking I’m more than a little crazy with this post about getting ready for back to school and you might be right but not for the reasons you think.
While most of the world considers getting ready for back to school in mid to late August, those of us with food allergic or Celiac children actually need to begin the process of back to school right when other parents are gearing up for school letting out for summer. Whether your child is getting ready for their first playschool, kindergarten, senior high or even college, there are many things you need to consider right now.
If your child is very young and entering their first playschool or kindergarten class, you’ve probably already completed your registrations and know what school they’ll be attending. Attached to that decision to register your child was most likely a school visit, a review of the school’s food allergy protocols and perhaps meeting with administration. If your school hasn’t yet made the decision on which classroom to place your child, they will be shortly and then it becomes your responsibility to work with and, if necessary, educate the teacher who will have the day to day responsibility for your child. As a former elementary school teacher, I can tell you that I’d prefer to get acquainted with you now, review materials you may provide and get medical training as necessary over the summer. By the time back to school hits, it’s an extremely busy time for teachers and you don’t want this very important information to get lost in the shuffle.
The same holds true for your older child. Whether they’re just moving up a grade to a new teacher/classroom or if they’ll be attending a whole new school with new administrators and policies, make yourself and your child’s requirements known now. At the same time, ask what you can do to help. I’ve provided posters for my child’s school and come in at the year end June teacher’s meeting to educate about food allergies and to train staff how to use the epi-pen.
Think that when your child leaves high school that you won’t have to do much with his/her food restrictions at school? Think again. It simply takes on a different tone with decisions to be made about whether your child will live at home, whether they will live off-campus and cook their own food or whether the foodservice centers on campus will be well enough trained that you can trust them to meet your child’s needs. My allergic daughter is just graduating grade 12 this year and we’ve already been to her new campus but also had to assess other campuses for food allergy protocols as she made the decision about where to attend. It’s difficult to let a child go out into the world but made even more challenging with food allergies.
And a final note: you really do need to ally with your child’s educators here and that starts with approaching them in a professional manner. By all means, move up the administrative ladder if issues cannot be resolved, but a calm, cool, collected parent who knows their facts and rights for their child, understands what is reasonable and who can approach their child’s educator as a team member will go a long way to creating a safe, positive environment for their child.
Need access to tips, plans, poster suggestions and more for back to school? Check out FARE which is an excellent US resource and also has tips for the schools themselves: http://www.foodallergy.org/tools-and-resources/getting-started
You might also want to check out Anaphylaxis Canada since different laws are in place in Canada but they also have great tips everyone can use: http://www.anaphylaxis.ca/