If your child has food allergies, you already know how closely the situation needs to be monitored. Ingredients must be constantly checked, cooking utensils must be meticulously cleaned, and menus must be scanned when dining out.
Sending your child to school, where he or she will be under someone else’s supervision, understandably can be worrying. Will teachers be as mindful as you are? Will administrators be able to keep track of the different needs of all students?
When the time to send your child to school arrives, you want to be as prepared as you can be, so consider these tips that we’ve compiled to help manage your child’s food allergies at school:
Develop an action plan early on. Ironing out the details of a food-allergy plan for your child can be a long and challenging process, so it’s important to begin planning with your child’s school as soon as possible. If your child will be attending public school, he or she will be eligible for a 504 Plan, which provides specific services and aid based on a child’s needs. Your child also may be eligible for a 504 Plan if attending private school, but this may not always be the case – in which case you need to speak to and coordinate directly with the school.
Educate your child. When your child is old enough to understand, explain the issue to him or her and answer any questions. Make your child aware of what can trigger his or her food allergies, which adult will provide the needed medicine at school, and what special services the school has agreed to provide. In the event that a mistake is made, your child hopefully will be able to notice it before he or she is exposed to the allergen.
Make and save photocopies of documents. Because you will have to provide your child’s medical history and other documentation fairly frequently, it’s important to keep those files well organized and in a safe location. In addition, you’ll probably want to keep a detailed notebook with important information from meetings that you can refer to when needed.
Consult with a food allergy coach. If this is your first time managing your child’s food allergies when at school, be aware that the process can be confusing and challenging at times. It therefore can be very helpful to have an expert whom you can turn to when questions arise. You can ask your child’s doctor or another medical professional for a referral to food allergy coaches, or you can search online for food allergy coaches who can help with managing food allergies at school.
Stay calm. Although this can be a frustrating process, it’s important to stay level-headed. If your child knows or senses that you are nervous and upset, he or she may likely develop the same feelings. You may find it helpful to seek support from other parents who have experience with managing the food allergies of children when they’re at school.