Thursday, August 27, 2009

Back to School

Abigail started school this week.  We are looking forward to a fun and successful year in 1st Grade!

Every fall, moms and/or dads and their school age children hit the stores in droves shopping for a new backpack, lunch box, paper, pencils, erasers, markers, tissues and the list goes on and on.  It's a very exciting time as we cross each item off our Required Supply List provided by the school.  For many parents, after verifying the bus schedule and going to open house to meet the teacher, school preparation is done.  For parents with allergic children, the preparation has just started.

I've spent weeks prior to school starting creating the tools necessary to keep my daughter safe in school.  There's the Food Allergy Action Plan, the letter to her classmates' parents explaining what they can do to help, the Medical Authorization Forms that have to be signed by her Pediatrician, new EpiPens and Benadryl for the classroom, letters for the bus drivers, a safe snack list, peanut safe treats for her to eat in lieu of store-bought cupcakes, etc.  I've also met with the Principal, had a one-on-one meeting with her new teacher and a phone discussion with the school nurse.

Our school has been great!  I know that's not always the case, and many parents have to really go to battle for their allergic child.  My meeting with the Principal was very productive.  My main purpose was to discuss the Clinical Trial at Duke.  Abigail has to miss school to participate.  Right now, we are going every other week.  Based on the appointment time restrictions and the lengthy drive, I'll be picking her up early from school for each visit.  She'll miss a full day of school for each Food Challenge.  I am excited though because during our meeting, I mentioned that I had a letter that I would like to send home with each classmate explaining the seriousness of Abigail's allergy and some precautions that everyone could take to make the classroom a safe learning environment.  The Principal asked that I forward it to him.  He ended up e-mailing it to all the teachers in the school to use if they had a student with a peanut allergy.  I made a difference!!  My husband now jokingly refers to me as his activist wife.  

My meeting with Abigail's new teacher was also very reassuring.  Surprisingly, she has never had a peanut allergy student.  We had a clean slate to work with.  We went over where Abigail would sit in the cafeteria, the fact that Abigail couldn't have table clean-up duty, what information any substitute teacher would receive, everywhere Abigail's medicine had to go, the clean-up procedure for when they ate snacks in the classroom, requests for class parties and other celebrations, etc.  Isn't it amazing the details that we have to address??  Her teacher was fabulous through it all!  At Open House, she sent the letter and safe snack list home with each of the parents and even asked that they consider sending peanut free snacks to school each day something that I didn't ask for.  She is also requiring that each student wash their hands upon arriving to school, after coming in from the playground, after eating snack and after lunch!  I'm so pleased about that.  Not only because it creates a safer environment for Abigail, but also because it'll make a healthier class during cold and flu season!

Here are a few of the documents that I provided to the school.  In each case, I was unable to find one on the internet that totally fit my needs, so I either drafted one, or modified one I found online. 
Peanut Allergy Letter for Classmates
Peanut Safe Snack List
Peanut Allergy Letter for Bus Driver

The Peanut Allergy Action Plan does not upload properly to Google Docs.  You will need to contact me for that file.  My e-mail address is listed under "Contact Me".  I do have to thank a member of my PAK group for the Action Plan.  It was a great idea.  I've condensed it so that it's much smaller, made lots of copies and laminated them.  The teacher has 3 (one to post at her desk, one in the sub folder and one for the first aid backpack).  I gave Abigail's morning and afternoon bus drivers a copy and put one in with her EpiPen that goes everywhere with us.

Enough for this post.  I'm working on a Part 2 to the Back to School Post.  We've come a long way emotionally since Abigail was 2 and starting preschool for the first time.  For all you moms out there that are sending your little one to school for the very first time and are freaking does get easier.


Julie Redfern said...

never really thought about all that you would have to do. That is great that the school and teachers are so receptive to the plan. I never had any kids severely allergic to anything when I was teaching either.

Karen said...

When I was a preschool teacher in Chicago, our entire building was "nut-free." In our class of 14, 4 had severe nut allergies (also egg, soy, tomato, and fish allergies). We took Epipens with us everywhere we went, even if was just 3 doors down to the gym. I'm glad Abigail's teacher and principal are so understanding. It makes all the difference in the world.