Life-threatening allergy parent information video
15
October

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , /


I have two daughters, a second grader and
a kindergartener. Both have life-threatening peanut allergies.
Charlie’s now in sixth grade and he is allergic to egg, peanut and tree nut, and
dogs but dogs aren’t huge at Moland so we’re okay with that. When we first
looked at school and deciding what we were going to do I was terrified. We know
that it’s really scary to have a child with a life-threatening food allergy. We
communicate with the cafeteria, with teachers, with office staff. Everybody’s trained,
everybody’s on the same page. The student is not starting school until
everybody is comfortable. Until the kids can make good decisions on their own and
keep themselves safe, really feel it’s up to us the adults in their lives to keep
them safe. And if the parents will alert us to any kind of allergy then we’re
more than willing to help. We just need to know. We entered in kindergarten, and
when we walked in the door to register in March there’s a little box
you check that says you have a child with food allergy and they give you an
extra paper packet. And it comes with lots and lots of information about what
your expectations of us should be, how we can meet your needs, and the needs of
your child and all that’s covered. There’s a flowchart that talks about how
you access additional services, 504 all that stuff is in the blue packet.
Once that form has been filled out and it’s noted down there, we have them
touching base with our school nurse so that the school nurse is aware, the
principal’s aware, the classroom teacher’s aware, of not just the student has an
allergy but what that allergy is and really work with the family on what kind
of accommodations they make it home that we can try to replicate at the building.
Every child with food allergies has a different situation, a different set of
allergies, a different severity of allergies. Their family is comfortable
with different things, their allergist is comfortable with different things. So
it’s important to be your child’s advocate. You know your child best you
know what they need, you know what accommodations to ask for. It’s not
unusual for you to come and say school X did this and then for us to maybe say we
can’t do that because the physical structure of our school, or the number of
kids, or whatever. We have a certain set of policies and procedures that we all
follow, but the amount of accommodation we can make around certain
things may or may not change. So 504 is an accommodation plan that goes above
and beyond anything that would normally be done. And a 504 can be set up for any
disability. Food allergies are classified as disabilities under the American
Disabilities Act. A parent requests a 504 meeting and we assemble a team. It always
includes the parent, likely will include the principal, the counselor, the child’s
teacher, and then other staff that would be in contact with that kiddo. And we
would sit and talk about what additional accommodations that child needs to make
themselves safe and have access to school. Those 504 plans are included on
the top of the substitute folders as well. So even if the child doesn’t have
their regular teacher that day, the substitute should know who the child is
and what their special accommodations are. Another piece that we highly
encourage especially if it’s a severe allergy, again is that if nothing else
over communication with our school nursing staff. Whether that school
nurse is at that school or visits that school as part of a rotation, so if there
is an EpiPen or some sort of other medication again that we have that
process just kind of woven into that child’s daily routine so that in the
event that something did happen we would be able to respond to it, call 911
immediately to keep that child safe. If the students say it’s a peanut allergy
they state I think I might’ve eaten a peanut or they have eaten a peanut
regardless of whether or not they’re having a reaction we automatically give
the EpiPen first. 911 is called, parent is notified, they make the decision to transport or
not. On a field trip the medication, if they have one at school, goes with them.
Okay when the teacher is field trip medication trained by me, and they know how to use the EpiPen. They also know the process give the EpiPen, call 911 first.
Safety is our first job. Students need to be safe and feel safe to be able to be
here and learn the academic piece that we that we provide for them. Most students and families choose to not eat hot lunch and bring food from home
which is the safest option. However, if they choose to eat the school meal
program, we’ll make an accommodation. So they can come to the meal program. We
have allergen free items. We read the labels. We train our staff and our staff
will double check. So the student comes to the line the first thing the point of
service icon will bring up their name and it’ll say allergy, life-threatening,
peanuts, or soy. And that’ll alert the point of service web smart operator to
get a card, place it on the tray. and this is for the elementary level. And then
when they go through the line, our serving staff will know oh this is a
child that has alergy. Let’s make sure okay honey yes you can have this, and
let’s make sure you don’t have that. We don’t ban products it’s really important
to understand that bans can create a false sense of security. Most of the
allergen exposures happen from kids swapping food from cold lunches. But then
when we make an accommodation we separate the production, we have separate
hand-washing processes to ensure that we’re not cross contaminating a food
item. And then we double check our labels and have reduced some of the allergen
containing food items in our menu so we know what we can give the kids. The PAL tables or Protect a Life tables are there for students who are going to
be eating in the cafeteria. And that’s, it’s not a one-size-fits-all. Each parent
will sit down with a 504 care team, the nurse, the teacher, the principal or
assistant principal, and talk about what does a lunchroom environment look like.
And it might be just a separate space right next to them where their friends,
their pals will not be having their alergen. Or it might be a whole end of
a table. Sometimes there’s a sign placed as a reminder and sometimes not. It’s a
matter of making sure that there’s inclusion, and that we’re doing a good
job creating a safe environment but not embarrassing a student or pointing them
out in anyway. The beginning of the year we send a
letter home to the parents, and that comes out from the office. Says we have a
new student welcoming them to Garfield they do have an allergy too. And just go
ahead and list that out there so that when we have celebrations, or if someone
brings a snack for the class, that we’re very conscious, very aware of being able
to accommodate everyone. Any food that is brought into the classroom is brought
from me and okayed by the parents. The kids who do have allergies always wash
their hands before they have any kind of snack, any kind of food. We want them to
be safe in their classroom and not exposed to their allergens, but we don’t
want to put them in a bubble and be isolated from everyone. So we want to set
up practices that they’re with their friends part of the classroom, their
learning, and their friendships aren’t impacted by their food allergies. You can email or call, and it just everyone we’ve been in contact with is so helpful and
willing to you know calm you down and help you through your concerns. And my
concerns are going to be different than another food allergy parent’s concerns
because we’re different people and we have different kids. So you have to just
go with your gut and ask your questions. As parents, you need to communicate
with the school. Any concerns, any allergies, it’s really incumbent upon
you to let us know. Then we can take it from there, and make the school as safe as
possible. Our job is to keep the student here, safe, learning. But we need the
information in order to do that


One thought on “Life-threatening allergy parent information video

  1. This is the best expression of inclusion by a school system that I've EVER seen!!! I can only share it with every school system in the Atlanta area in hopes that they too will adopt a sense of urgency, compassion and inclusion for children with food allergies

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