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Top Tips for Preparing for School with Food Allergies

By Kristin Beltaos, bio below

My son’s first year of elementary school (kindergarten) aligned perfectly with the Chinese Horoscope, the year of the Black Water Dragon. The Chinese consider the dragon to be unpredictable, untouchable, and to continue with this mystique, people can’t see the dragon’s head and tail at the same time.

The above description so clearly aligns with what parents of food allergic kiddos experience. We have to anticipate every possible situation to educate others, and protect our children. Parents prepare and educate constantly, we think we’ve covered all bases and then, add a dash of Emeril Lagasse, BAM! Something hits us smack between the eyes. I felt this way many times during my son’s first year of school. The year sometimes felt unpredictable, untouchable and mysterious…where’s the dragon’s head, where’s his tail, always waiting in anticipation.

How things have changed since I was in kindergarten. I remember finger-painting, napping on my green shag rug and playing. It was a simpler time, and any forty-something would tell you that we turned out just fine.

Now, my son is reading, writing and doing math. Play is designated for only a couple times a week and food celebrations are in vogue to commemorate anything, i.e., reach the school fundraising goal – TREAT; post Halloween bingo – TREAT; fall classroom festival – MULTIPLE TREATS; Valentine party – TREAT; all school assembly – TREAT, etc. Yes, I’m talking to you about food allergies, but with all these tasty treats, no wonder we have a childhood obesity epidemic. Unfortunately, we live in a society that socializes, celebrates, rewards and crafts with food, especially at school.

Having said the above, smart parents always plan early. It’s what we do! I’ve always been a planner, which really comes in handy when you love and parent a food allergic kiddo. Even though the school year has ended, it’s not too early to plan for the 2012-13 school year. In fact, I consider it primetime.

Kristin’s Top Tips for Preparing for School with Food Allergies

1.    Start Talking and Collecting!

  • Speak with your allergist and ask for a letter detailing your child’s health condition and needs; Complete an Anaphylaxis Plan, Asthma Action Plan (if applicable) and medication authorization document(s).
  • Start chatting up school officials: principal, district and school nurse and teacher (if known). Ask for the district’s food allergy/anaphylaxis policies or guidelines, study it and determine any further accommodations you want for your child. Schedule an August meeting to speak with your cast of characters.
  • Lay the groundwork with your allergic child. Start talking with your child about how things might be different from the previous year’s experience with regard to food allergies, i.e. the transition from daycare to preschool or preschool to kindergarten or ½ day kindergarten to all day first grade, etc.

2. Determine Your Plans

  • If your child is at risk for anaphylaxis, then your child is eligible for a 504 Plan. Then decide if you want a 504 Plan or an Individual Health Plan (IHP) or both. (I have both.)
  • If not at risk for anaphylaxis, then you want an IHP established.

3. Remain Positive, Vigilant and be Prepared to Partner

  • We do the best we can with what we know and the information that is provided. Know that unexpected things can happen; we face them as they come and we’re well equipped to handle anything that comes our way.

Lastly, always be prepared to partner with others. I may be wildly unpopular with those that think advocating is the only way. There’s that old saying, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. Getting your point across, in a respectful manner, will not only benefit your youngster and other food allergic children; but your stress levels as well.

Slay your dragon. Happy Planning! Happy Partnering! Happy Summer!

Bio: Kristin Beltaos, M.A., owner of A Gift of Miles, offers coaching/consulting in the areas of stress, food allergies and reproductive challenges. Kristin struggled with infertility and multiple miscarriages and is now a mother to two beautiful boys, one who has multiple food allergies. She firmly believes that humor can diffuse and carry us through almost any situation and relishes being a positive influence to others with these same challenges. Kristin is the creator of a series of workshops focused on living life fully with food allergies. She also wrote and led the implementation of the first 504 Plan for food allergies in her son’s school. She was honored as the November/December 2011 InSeason Mom. Prior to starting her business, Kristin was employed and consulted for a variety of companies in the areas of strategic planning and marketing. To learn more, visit her Website, Blog, Facebook and Twitter.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Kristin Beltaos #

    Hi Megann, thanks so much for your question.

    Children at risk for anaphylaxis are covered under the Rehabilitation Act under Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. 504 Plans are enforced by the Office Of Civil Rights (OCR). Briefly, a 504 Plan is a contract between the school and parents regarding what accommodations will be made to keep your child safe and not discriminated against during school. It covers a broad range of topics but here are some examples: Preventative Measures, Emergency Plan, Emergency Medicine Pack, Substitute Teachers and Nurses, Cafeteria, Recess, Safe Snacks/Birthday Parties, Lesson Plans/Activities/Classroom, Fieldtrips, Computer Lab, Physical Education Class, etc. Should a school violate a 504 Plan, a parent has the right to file a complaint with the OCR, an investigation will ensue.

    An Individual Healthcare Plan (known as an IHP or IHCP) are developed for students with special health needs, in this case food allergies and can also include asthma, etc. which sometimes go in tandem with food allergies. It’s basically for any health need that requires daily care. This plan describes how to meet and fulfill a child’s daily health and safety requirements in the school setting. It will include a physician diagnoses, objectives for the child with expected outcomes for promoting self care and age appropriate independence. It will also include the responsibilities of parents, teachers, nurse, school administration, etc.

    I hope this answered your questions! Please feel free to reply here or contact me directly at 612.845.7585 or Kristin@agiftofmiles.com.

    Lastly, I have a national, special announcement coming later today regarding this very topic! Keep watchful on my Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/agiftofmiles, Twitter: https://twitter.com/KristinBeltaos and Blog: http://www.agiftofmiles.com/blog/ You will find it to be very helpful!

    ~ Kristin

    Like

    July 16, 2012
  2. Megann Hobbs #

    My son has the most severe of peanut / treenut allergies . Can you tell me what a 504 plan is ? And the other plan you referenced ?

    Like

    July 16, 2012
  3. FYI — 504 Plans aren’t just for public schools. If your child at risk for anaphylaxis attends a private school that receives federal funding, he/she is eligible for a 504 Plan as well.

    Like

    June 26, 2012

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