My son will be starting kindergarten next year. He is allergic to peanuts.
Many of my regular readers and friends, have asked me to share what I am doing to make sure he is safe at school. This is the first post of what I am sure will be many about our journey into the public school system with a severe peanut allergy (PA).
Above all else, throughout the process of educating and making preparations, make sure you support you school. Be involved in your school.
My PA son is my second child so I already have a student in the school that he will be attending. I became involved with the school right away. I have attended PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) meetings for the last two years. I was involved long before the staff or principal had any idea that I had a child with a peanut allergy.
I know that if you have a PA child that is your oldest child, getting involved at the school will happen when your child gets ready to go to school. That's fine. I just wanted to let you know where I was coming from. I also want you to know that I think being involved helps build relationships. Having healthy relationships with the staff is an essential part of protecting a child with a food allergy.
Step 1: The first thing we did to prepare for school is have an appointment with our son's allergist. We talked to him about our concerns and got his recommendations. We had a lot of questions. Our school has never had a child with a peanut allergy (or another serious food allergy).
Our allergist gave us a "Food Allergy Treatment Form" that we could pass on to the school. This describes symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, what to look for and what steps to take in an emergency. (I can scan this in for you at another time if you are interested.)
Step 2: We scheduled an appointment with the Princial and the school nurse during the Spring of the year prior to when he starts Kindergarten to discuss his peanut allergy and how the school will handle it.
We wanted to be proactive. We want to give the school as much time as possible to make preparations. We were thanked for contacting them so early.
Before the meeting, my husband and I came up with a list of what we wanted to cover during the meeting. My husband checked off the items as we discussed them. I provided a history of David's allergy and gave them a copy of my What I’d Like for You To Know guest post.
Decisions were made such as:
- They will talk about the Peanut Allergy at Kindergarten Orientation. They will hand out information to the parents.
- A letter will be sent home with the kids at the Kindergarten Assessment.
- We will meet with all of the kindergarten teachers and aids (and other staff like PE and music teachers) the week before school starts.
- We will meet with the school nurse to develop an Emergency Health Care Plan.
It was a good meeting. We were educating them about food allergies. We discussed how to keep his room safe. We talked about how to make the school safer for David. (I will write more about the precautions we are taking later.)
Step 3: I believe part of protecting my son means taking initiative. I am providing the school with as much information as I can and I am asking lots questions.
Tomorrow is Kindergarten Orientation. I talked to the school nurse yesterday. She is planning on handing out some PAL information. I stopped by the school this morning.
They printed 1) the information I gave them from FAAN about reading labels. 2) An example label: A bag of lettuce contains a nut warning!
and 3) This info about Foods that Might Contain Nuts
I asked if food was going to be served at the Orientation.
They responded with surprise and a look that said, "I didn't think of that." They brought out a pre-packaged container of cookies from the grocery store bakery. I showed them the peanut warning on the package. They are buying a separate package of Oreos, which will be placed on a separate plate for him.
I will continue to let you know how everything unfolds. Much of what will happen will take place in the weeks before school starts. I am excited and a bit nervous about Kindergarten Orientation tomorrow.