Today's post is from Elizabeth Bostic of Thriving with Allergies. Elizabeth is an art teacher and artist living in rural Iowa. She is a mother of two fantastic kids who happen to have food allergies, environmental allergies, and asthma. She draws inspiration from her everyday experiences, and learning to help her children thrive with allergies and asthma. You can find more of her blog posts and allergy related art work at www.thrivingwithallergies.blogspot.com
School is out, and summer break is here! Time to relax, and enjoy the season. Many parents of school aged children worry about learning loss during summer vacation. If you are the parent of a seriously food allergic child than you may also be worried about your child’s learning loss in regards to school safety with food allergies.
My seven year old daughter with multiple severe food allergies just finished first grade at our local elementary school. She loves it, and while I may have a few more gray hairs now from the stress of sending a highly allergic child off to school, I appreciate all that she is learning academically and socially, and she is thriving in the school environment. In preparation for school we practiced food allergy safety skills which helped to prepare both of us for her first year of school. With the help of the school staff, and wonderful nurse, she had a very successful kindergarten, and first grade year.
Now that summer is here, I am encouraging her to keep up the good work, and keep her food allergy safety skills sharp and ready for second grade. Like many families, our calendar is already filled with play-dates, pool parties, camping, birthday parties, family reunions, and holiday parties. We will have plenty of great opportunities to practice her food allergy safety skills. It turns out summer break is the perfect time to prepare for the fall and the first day of a new school year. There will be no food allergy skills “brain drain” for our family this summer!
Our Food Allergy Brain Drain Prevention Check List:
- Hand-washing: Washing hands with soap and water before and after eating. Hand sanitizer does not remove food proteins.
- Safe Snacking: Never assume a snack is safe. Always bring own safe snack. Always ask /call parent or caregiver before eating any snack or treat not from home.
- Food Label Reading: Read every food label twice as those tiny words can be tricky. (We are having our seven year old learn to read labels , but she still needs help for now). Ask a food allergy aware adult to double check the ingredient list. (I have misread labels in the past).
- Prepared Traveling: Always traveling with safe snacks. Pack a bag with snacks for every trip.
- Safety Preparation: We never leave home without my daughter's medicine bag which contains Epipens, Benadryl, and asthma inhaler. We were recently told by our allergist that she can carry her own medications, so we will be practicing this as well.
- Declining Food: Saying “No thank you” politely, but firmly. This can be tricky, but it is oh so important as this skill is needed quite frequently. Learning that even authority figures can make mistakes can take practice. We role play which helps.
- Emotional Well-being: The school year was great but there were a few situations in which there were tears fromm feeling left out. Having a summer filled with social events is the perfect time to work on this. Not being able to eat the birthday cake, or sitting out of an activity due to the use of food allergens sometimes weighs heavily on my daughter. To help combat this I am focusing on making connections with other food allergic families , finding food allergic role models, celebrating her differences, and boosting her confidence.
If you are wondering where you can find a support group, confidence boosters, and role models for your family, Facebook is great start. Kyle Dine has a fun page with food allergy music for kids, and there are many food allergy authors like Michelle Nel author of “My Immune system Needs Glasses”, and many advocates too.
For boosting confidence, and celebrating differences, I love a series of books called “The No Biggie Bunch”. They illustrate ways to feel confident and prepared in social situations such as birthday parties, holidays, and play-dates. They also have a great book called “The No Biggie Bunch: Everyday Cool with Food Allergies”. It illustrates all of the safety preparation your child will need, and is great for both caregivers and children.
Here's to a safe, happy, relaxing, and “brain drain” free summer!