Back to School

By Heather Legg

I hate to think it, but summer is on its way out. It seems I was just blogging about the beginning of summer and enjoying those first days of no alarm clock. Well, school is just around the corner and that means many things. For those of us with kids with allergies, one of the things it means is a place where we can’t monitor everything they do or come into contact with. But there is a lot we can do, beginning with letting all those who deal with our children be aware of their allergies.

Of course, that includes their primary teacher. You may choose to talk to her directly or write a letter, both are a good idea. With a letter (more on that upcoming), she has it in writing; by talking she has an opportunity to ask questions and you can personally get the importance across. The week before school starts is a good time to do this, before the kids get there. You can’t talk to every substitute teacher, but you can write a letter for the teacher to keep with her sub notes.

Now as kids get older, they have more classroom teachers; a letter may suffice to all of them, or you may choose to speak to each one directly. You can go through their homeroom teacher and use her as your main contact. High school is also a good time to start putting some of the responsibility on your child and having him or her discuss it with the teachers and help make decisions.

That covers classroom teachers, but what about everyone else who your child comes in contact with. I know at our elementary school, the classroom teacher isn’t with them 100% of the time, except in kindergarten where they have a parapro (another person you need to make aware of allergies and procedures). So what happens when they go to P.E. or art or the computer lab? You could go to all of these teachers individually and speak to them; you can also send them each a copy of your letter that you sent the classroom teacher. You can also ask the classroom teacher to make sure everyone who will be dealing with your child is aware of allergies (but it can’t be guaranteed that they will do so). The good news is that even though the teacher isn’t with your child in these places, food usually isn’t either. The birthday cupcakes, the snacks and the party food is all usually kept inside the classroom.

You do, of course, want to speak with the nurse and go over emergency procedures. You may want to speak to administration so they are aware of your child’s allergies and needs as well. If you haven’t done so in prior years, you should speak with the cafeteria staff. At our school, kids with allergies are coded in the cafeteria computer so lunchroom staff is aware.

It’s a lot to think about, and can be overwhelming to those of you with kids just starting school. Follow your instinct, if you feel your classroom teacher can handle it all and help you get the word around, stick with her and the nurse. If you feel more people in the school need to be aware of your child’s allergies and needs, let them know, too. This is your child we’re talking about, don’t be afraid to be assertive and do what you feel is right.

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