Reader Question Regarding Education and Awareness

By Heather Legg

One of our readers posted this very important comment, and I’d love to offer up some advice to get her and anyone else started on an allergy awareness/educational crusade.

I am a mother of a 3yr old boy who is allergic to wheat, milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. I am realizing that some of my local schools here in Philadelphia do not accommodate those with allergies. This scares me as my son’s allergies are severe. Clearly, children, as well as, adults in schools need to be educated on this topic. I am willing to start an educational crusade by doing asssemblies. Despite being a former teacher (I am currently a stay at home mom), I feel I would need some help or advice from you to get the ball rolling. I am not sure where to start. Could you help me?

She definitely has an advantage as being a stay at home affords her more time and her educational background is helpful in knowing the ins and outs of the school system. However, anyone can take this challenge on.

To begin with, I would advise a meeting before the child enters school; the preceding spring would be a great time (I’m assuming she is referring to the public school he will begin in a couple of years. A lot of this can be done in preschool, too). It’s best to meet with administrators and the school nurse if there is one for a preliminary meeting. At this meeting, present your child’s medical needs and allergy specifics, obviously in this case, there is more than one allergy to deal with. Often people unfamiliar with allergies don’t know differences even between tree nuts and peanuts, so a little education is necessary. A school nurse should know these things, as should administrators these days, though.

As you meet with them, find out what they have in place to accommodate allergies already and let them know your expectations. This is where you can be a big help. If they do not have the knowledge, means or whatever to implement what you need, here is where you can step in. Perhaps you could start a PTA committee or chair it if there is one already (often this falls under Health and Wellness). You can offer to hold informational workshops to teachers and parents. You could speak at a staff meeting, preferably during the pre-planning days before school and/or conduct a talk for parents in the evening or a lunch and learn style talk. I think it you tie it into a PTA group, you can have greater success as they can back you. If not, you can still work on this all important facet of education.

Finding an ally within the school is also helpful, maybe a teacher with a child with an allergy or just one who is interested in helping you. The school nurse would probably love your help. Remember, too, your demeanor is all important. While you want to be assertive, you don’t want to come across as difficult.

I love this topic as it is so important for students (and parents) to be safe within our schools. Look for more on this in the coming weeks and include important information to get out, forming support groups within a school, and covering bullying and allergies information. Thanks you for your comment!

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