Our post today is a guest blog entry from Maria L. Acebal, J.D. the CEO of the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN™), the trusted source for food allergies. We’d like to thank Maria for guest blogging for us today.
Summer is almost over, and that means families all across the country are preparing to send their kids back to school. Teachers have such an enormous responsibility in educating our kids. If you have a child with food allergies, here is what you can do to help teachers confidently and effectively manage students’ food allergies.
- Plan ahead. Fill out and submit all required medical forms on time and turn in medication appropriately labeled for your child. Before you submit epinephrine auto-injectors and other medications to the school, check and record expiration dates.
- Build a team. Managing a student’s food allergies includes not only their teacher, but also any adult who will supervise the student. This includes, for example, the school’s principal, playground monitor, art teacher, and bus driver. The whole team needs to be food allergy smart! When educating the school about food allergies, make sure to include the entire team.
- Maintain open and ongoing dialogue. “It’s all about frequent, calm, confident communication.” I couldn’t agree more with this advice I once received from a mom in my local food allergy support group.
I remember my daughter Nina’s first day of pre-k at an international school as if it was yesterday. She is anaphylactic to peanuts. I hadn’t been able to meet with the teacher until the day before school started, as she was only then arriving from her home country of Spain. I came in with my epinephrine auto-injectors, a trainer, my Food Allergy Action Plan, and my hopes that all would be well. I started with what to do in case of an anaphylactic emergency and minutes into the conversation, I froze when the teacher wrote down on her pad of paper, “911” — she had never been to the U.S., so she didn’t know what the number for the ambulance was! Further into our conversation I realized that she had never heard of an allergy to peanuts before! I felt overwhelmed when I realized I was really starting from scratch.
I am happy to report that Nina’s inaugural year at the international school was a great success. Her teacher was eager and committed to learning about food allergies and ever-ready to go the extra mile to help Nina stay safe while feeling included in classroom activities. That experience taught me that attitude goes a very long way; I will forever remember with tremendous gratitude this teacher from Spain who had an open heart and ready willingness to make her classroom an inviting, exciting, and safe place to be.
This year, Nina will start fourth grade at a brand new school. I may not be as anxious as I was on the first day of pre-k, but I still have back-to-school food allergy jitters. Thinking he’s making me feel better, my husband comments on how much easier this is than sending her off to college. Meanwhile, my heart starts pounding … “Oh no, college!”
Whether you are a parent of a child with food allergies or a teacher with students who have food allergies, FAAN is here to help! Check out FAAN’s Back-to-School Tool Kit at www.foodallergy.org/section/back-to-school-tool-kit.
Interested in becoming an official FAAN member? Membership has many benefits. For less than 15¢ a day, you can add your voice to the cause and support people with food allergies. www.foodallergy.org/page/individual
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