As the first day of school approaches, I thought that I’d share some reminders to help all of us prepare for safe and successful classroom experiences!
Today’s tip: Draft the letter(s) of introduction…….
Everyone handles this a little bit differently, but if your child will have a new school, a new teacher, or new parents and students in the classroom, it is a good time to think about how to introduce or re-introduce information about your child’s food allergy to these audiences.
In your written and verbal communications with a new teacher, it is critical to clearly explain your child’s medical condition. It may be, however, that sharing some important developmental milestone or emerging intellectual interest or their enthusiasm for school starting again, will help remind them that our children are beautiful human beings who also happen to have life-threatening food allergies, rather than ticking food allergy time bombs who will soon be left in their care for 7 hours a day! Share as much medical info as you deem appropriate, including short descriptions about past reactions, will help get the teacher up to speed so that those critical and short meetings you’ll have the week before school starts can be used for clarifying and hammering out accommodations.
In your letter to other parents, you may want to share accommodations that have been agreed to in your child’s 504 or Student Health Plan meeting, especially if you need their cooperation, and in most cases you will. It may be desirable to ask the parents to share part of the letter with their students or ask the teacher to share the letter as part of classroom food allergy education. It may also be desirable to have the letter come from the school nurse or other staff member. Over the years, I have found that it is much easier to accomplish my goals if the letter is from me, but I have successfully hammered out joint letters with other parents of food allergic students.
With the passing of the State Anaphylaxis Law in 2008, hopefully many schools will initiate their own letter to the entire school about food allergies. If this is not the case, however, you can find principal letters online or in the State Anaphylaxis Guidelines, at http://www.k12.wa.us/HealthServices/Publications/09-0009.aspx.
If this is your first year in school or preschool, peruse the internet, the FEAST sites and the guidelines for letters that you can modify or pick and choose what you like from what is out there.
Working on these letters is one way to help formulate what you do want to ask for in your 504 or Individual Health Plan. Look for more on this on the next Back to School Tip!
More to come!
Kelly Morgan, President
More school links http://www.wafeast.org/School_Information.html