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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

10 Tips For Talking To Your School About Food Allergies

As an Ambassador for SunButter, I have the privilege of being a featured blogger for them throughout the year.  As 'Back to School' preparations are in full swing, I thought this is the perfect time to share 10 tips I personally follow with our family's 'Back to School Prep'.   

To read the original article, visit here: 10 Tips for Talking To Your School About Food Allergies - May 15, 2015

10 Back To School Tips When Managing Food Allergies

10 Tips for Talking to Your School About Food Allergies
1. Attitude
To effectively educate others, you will need to partner with your school. Know that your attitude sets the tone. This will make or break how your school will or won’t work with you. If you go in with a steamroller approach with demands, you’re likely to meet resistance. Have you ever heard the saying, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?” Approach your school with a positive, understanding attitude and you are more likely to see positive, understanding results!
2. Resources
Find Educational Resources YOU Trust. You can direct others to these resources and use them to bolster your position. They will also help you remember that you aren’t alone! Here are links to some of my favorites.
  • FAACT – Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team FAACT is currently my favorite because I find them the easiest to navigate and LOVE their primary focus on education. TheirSchool Curricula Program offers ready to share presentations for the classrooms, beginning with K thru 3.
  • FARE – Food Allergy Research & Education FARE’s ‘Be A Pal: Protect a Life’ program spotlights Alexander the Elephant and his circle of food allergy friends. I still use portions of this program when presenting to preschool and early elementary school children.
  • KFA – Kids with Food Allergies KFA has an entire page dedicated to keeping kids with food allergies safe at schools, including free guides and handouts!
Find a Food Allergy Action Plan (FAAP) YOU Like. Your allergist fills out this form outlining actions to be taken by a caregiver in the instance your child has an allergic reaction while in their care. Here is one place you can start: Children’s Physician Network Food Allergy Action Plan
4. Management Plan
Figure out WHAT KIND of Management Plan Your Child Will Need. IHP? IEP? Or 504? If your child has life threatening food allergies, they may be considered as a qualified student with disabilities under the Americans with Disability Act (ACT) Amendments Act of 2008.Section 504 of the Rehabilitation ACT of 1973 requires that the school district to provide a “free and appropriate education” (FAPE). Then again, this will depend on whether they are attending a school receiving ANY federal funding, and laws can vary from state to state. DON’T be overwhelmed! Your allergist can help you out!
The following links will offer your more information regarding 504 Plans, IEPs and IHPs.
FAACT 504 PlansFAACT Individualized Education Plans (IEPs)
FAACT Individualized Health Plans (IHPs)
5. Gather Resources
Find some books and videos you like. My favorites include: the ENTIRE No Biggie Bunch series, The BugabeesThe Princess and the Peanut, and the Alexander the Elephant Who Couldn’t Eat Peanuts – Gets a Babysitter
6. Create a School Food Allergy Binder
Put together useful resources and have a copy available to share with the nurse and teacher. I would also include some kind of handy labels you can use to mark ‘SAFE’ snacks or a snack box for your child. Any kind of label will work. Here’s an example of the ones I personally designed: S.A.F.E. Food Allergy Labels.
7. Flyers
Find samples of food allergy flyers on line which you like. Just type in ‘peanut free’, ‘allergy free’ pics in your favorite search engine and you will find ALL kinds of different flyers you can use. Have these different options available to share with school personnel.
8. Meet with People
Meet with the Principal. Meet with school nurse. Meet with your child’s teacher. This is your opportunity to meet with everyone and explain your concerns. Let the individuals know you’re wanting to partner with the school to create a SAFE and enjoyable learning environment for everyone. It will be at this time you will find out what previous experiences these individuals have had in managing food allergies. You may be pleasantly surprised. You may be disappointed. Most importantly, you will be prepared to decide what direction you need to go in moving forward with your school.
9. Have Your Child Meet with ALL of the People They Will Meet
This is the opportunity to show your child all the individuals around them whom are working to keep them SAFE. Don’t underestimate the NEED for your child to need to feel this comfort. They don’t WANT to feel singled out, but they also need to feel SAFE.  
10. Get Involved!
In the beginning it may be nerve racking, but you can do it. Set up a time to go in and read stories, show a video, whatever it is you want to do to make learning about food allergies FUN!
AND YES, we have done everything on this list AND more!  We are ALL active in 'Back to School' advocacy in schools.  I am back in the schools offering allergy awareness classes.   For fun, my kids have created their OWN autoinjector video demos AND both teach their teachers how to use REAL autoinjectors.  We save outdated devices and use them on oranges.  Most teachers practice with 'trainers' NOT real ones!  My experience is that teachers are nervous using LIVE devices.  I believe having YOUR kids show them eases fear in their teachers for many reasons:
  1.  Holding and using a LIVE autoinjector has a much different mental feeling attached to it.  It's a realization that this is the REAL thing and they better know how to use it.  
  2. They see how the devices work in LIVE TIME and that needles retract, which many don't realize.
  3. It instills confidence.  If they see that YOUR kid can do it, they know they can too!  
Remember, a PLAN is great, but it's people who SAVE LIVES! Everyone needs to do their part in educating out community~ 


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