5 Steps for Going Back to School With Food Allergies
The start of the school year means fresh backpacks, school supplies, and most importantly for food-allergy families, a new teacher and routine. We've listed the five steps plus all the resources you need to be a food allergy valedictorian.
1. Set up a meeting before school starts.
Speaking with school staff and educators ahead of time sets the stage for an ongoing partnership. This is the opportunity to understand your school's policies and to communicate your child's individual needs. Request that your child's primary teacher and the school nurse, if they have one, attend. Consider requesting any other faculty that will be responsible for your child.
2. Prep your materials.
Here are the essential items to gather ahead of your meeting. Plan to leave these items at the school.
- Emergency Action Plan Make sure it's up-to-date and that it reflects your child's current weight so that your medication dosages are correct.
- Auto-injectors and any other medications Confirm that they're not expired.
- Auto-injector trainer
- Safe snacks Bring if your child can only eat the snacks you provide, or to have a backup snack in the event it's needed.
- 504 Plan If you use one or want to learn more, see What is a 504 Plan and Do I Need One?
Spokin Tip: Use Spokin's new tool, the Auto-Injector Manager, to add your auto-injectors before you drop them off. We'll remind you of expiration dates and notify you in the event of a recall while they're at school and out of sight.
3. Discuss everyday care.
Start by asking the school if they have a food allergy policy. If yes, decide if it covers your individual needs and make additional requests if necessary. If they don't have a policy, this is your opportunity to provide clear direction for how you want your child's allergy managed.
Tackle everyday activities where food is used. Then, discuss the ever-present, but less frequent occasions that food may be eaten such as birthdays. The goal is to set a clear and agreed upon protocol for when food is in the classroom. If your teacher or faculty will be the last line of defense for checking food, make sure they understand how to read a food label. See Reading Food Labels For Allergens.
Discuss whether you want to be notified ahead of when food is in the classroom, particularly for special occasions. Communicate how often and how far in advance you want these notifications. Suggest regular check-ins to ensure that your strategy is working.
4. Provide clear instructions in the event of an allergic reaction.
Your goal is to educate the school on the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction and how to care for your child in the event a reaction occurs. Use your Emergency Action Plan as a guide.
Educate about signs of a mild and severe reaction. If your child has had a reaction before, share what past reactions have looked like and note that future reactions could present differently.
Provide exact instructions for how to handle each type of allergic reaction. Communicate the care if your child has consumed a known allergen, but there is an absence of symptoms.
Spokin Tip: Share the unique words your child may commonly use to communicate a reaction, i.e. "my chin itches" or "my tongue feels spicy".
5. Share the plan with your child.
Make sure your child knows what to expect.
Make sure your child understands what’s been established for when food is present. Go over daily food scenarios and infrequent scenarios. For example, can they always, never, or sometimes participate in birthday treats?
Your child should know who to go to if they feel like they're having an allergic reaction.
Spokin Tip: Use Spokin's 36 Skills to Teach Your Food Allergic Child for age appropriate lessons.