My mother was recently telling me of a friend of hers who has a grand child allergic to a few different foods. Apparently, the child’s mother was searching for a private school for the girl and chose the school based on the fact that another child went there with the same allergies. It was reassuring to her that she would have that support from the school already being aware of allergies (the same ones her daughter has) and she felt safe with the protocol they took on allergies. There was also the added support of the family who was already involved in the school.
On the one hand, it’s great that the family found a school where they feel so safe and comfortable with their daughter attending with her food allergies. On the other hand, shouldn’t schools be chosen on academic merit and all of them treat allergies with serious caution, to make all students and parents feel safe? Apparently they don’t – I just read an article where a mother claims that a teacher gave her allergic child peanuts to keep him from attending a field trip.
Obviously, managing food allergies in school is a team effort. key players are the family, the school, the student. It takes everyone’s care and knowledge to keep the child safe. Here are some guidelines from the Food Allergy Initiative to safeguard your child in school – things you can do, things your child needs to do and things the school should do:
• Notify the school of the allergy
• Work with a team to develop an effective plan to accommodate the child in all areas of school
• Provide a written plan and emergency contact information
• Provide properly labeled and up to date medications
• Educate the child in self management
• Be knowledgeable and follow state and federal laws and guidelines
• Always provide alternate foods/activities to make sure students are included in all activities
• Assure all staff is knowledgeable and trained in food allergies and emergency procedures (including recognizing symptoms, reacting in emergency situations and understanding consequences of ingested allergens)
• Be prepared to handle reactions based on individual needs
• Include bus drivers in implementation and safety plans and protocol (including having communication devices, training in medication, no eating policies on buses
• Maintain appropriate strategies and guidelines on field trips, including taking medication and having someone trained to administer medicine with the group
• Do not allow any type of bullying or threats regarding food allergies
• Educate teachers, students and other parents about food allergies
• Be aware of allergy
• Do not trade food or eat anything unsure of
• Report any symptoms to an adult immediately
I’m pretty involved at my kids’ school and the other day we were talking about communication. How best to get all of the information out to all the parents? It’s tough. But we also realized that those that want the information will seek it. Granted, we’ve got signs and memos and online feed blitzes going out. We’ve got principal call outs and teacher blogs full of information. What I’m trying to say is a lot of people use the fact of lack of information, or difficulty getting it or inconvenience as an excuse not to do something. But if there is something that means a lot to you, tugs at your heart strings and gut, there’s never a reason not to do it.
I was so impressed after reading a commentary by a 9 year old boy who went to Washington during the Kids’ Congress on Capital Hill sponsored by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
In this CNN article, Kyle Graddy gives a commentary of what his trip was like, told in his 9 year old voice. He says, “I think it is important for the kids with food allergies to speak with the senators and congressmen because we can tell them what it is like to live with the food allergies and how hard it can be to feel safe at school when there are no real guidelines for anyone to follow.”
He and others with food allergies are working to get the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act of 2009 (s. 456/ H.R. 1378) passed with a goal to To develop voluntary guidelines to manage risk of food allergy and anaphylaxis in schools and early childhood education programs; to fund local grants to schools to implement guidelines. Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama has said he will co-sponsor the bill.
In Kyle’s words, the guidelines of this bill would “The guidelines would make school much easier for teachers, school nurses, principals, parents and kids with food allergies. Moms and dads would not have to start over each new school year teaching the school teachers, principals, and nurses how to keep their children with food allergies safe in a new classroom.
At the beginning of the school year, the school would know that a child has an allergy and would also know exactly what to do for the child to be safe. Also, when I change schools from elementary to middle school, the new school would be prepared for my food allergies.
With national guidelines, I would also be safer at school if my family had to move to another state, because the guidelines would be the same.”
Kyle Graddy is 9 years old and speaking with senators and congress people, walking through the front doors of the White House. No one should have an excuse not to follow up on what’s important! Go Kyle!
Read this article – who knows what it will inspire you to do!