(**10 points for anyone who can remember what movie sequel this title is a lyric from…**.)
It’s with both excitement and sadness that we approach the start of a new school year and the end of summer. While I love our long, lazy days catching sea creatures and playing wiffle ball, the nerd in me looks forward to school with all the social and educational stimuli that accompanies it.
As my son enters 4th grade next week, he enters not only a new building but also new responsibilities in our school system. This year, we’re preparing to handle his food allergies in some old and some new ways when it comes to school.
As he matures, my son both earns and requires different forms of independence. And, one of those ways is for him to have some limited control over how we handle his food allergies. If you find yourself with a tween, you’re probably noticing the same thing. Here are some of the ways we’re approaching my son’s allergies this school year:
1. Once we receive teacher assignments, we will talk with his teachers (particularly homeroom, art and science teachers) to educate him/her on my son’s particular allergies, ask questions about the in-class manipulatives the students will be expected to use, and to inquire about their snack, holiday and birthday policies so we can accommodate our son safely. Our school nurse is the same as last year and is well-versed in food allergy management, so that’s one less conversation for us. If you have a nurse that’s new to you, it’s important to know what her protocol is and for her to know any food allergy symptoms/triggers you’ve seen in your child.
2. We’re going to speak to the school nurse and middle school office about their policy regarding students carrying their own epinephrine autoinjectors. Each school has a different feeling and liability on this subject. While in school, our school nurse is well-equipped with the medications we’ve provided god forbid a reaction occurs. But, my son now sometimes stays after school to watch his older cousins play sports or goes straight from school to play at a friend’s house and having his autoinjectors make him feel more self-assured.
This summer, my son took the initiative one day to pack a sports sackpack with his emergency on-the-go pack as well as his most recent allowance and, of course, his awesome neon sunglasses. He was so excited to be in charge of his own pack and who doesn’t love seeing a kid’s confidence grow like that?!
3. Got a few extra oranges laying around? Any expired epinephrine? These two things are great for teaching others how to use the autoinjectors properly. This year, we’re including my son’s best friend and parents in on the practice. His friend is old enough and mature enough to WANT to know what to do. Not only will we demonstrate how to use the EpiPens/Auvi-Q, but we’ll also discuss contacting the nearest adult and calling 911 no matter what. It makes all parties involved feel better knowing the proper protocol and having given the injectors a little practice.
4. We have and will continue to have talks with my son and rehearse different scenarios:
- In-class/sport team celebrations that involve unsafe foods;
- Play dates that don’t quite understand how to handle his allergies;
- Hygiene: proper hand washing (and when/how often) and how hand sanitizers do not eliminate allergens;
- What to do if he believes he’s experiencing an allergic reaction and how this is a GOOD time to interrupt any teachers/adults; and
- What to do/How to ask teachers and cafeteria assistants about the safety of any “surprise” foods that weren’t on our original menu for the week (sometimes a shipment doesn’t arrive on time for service that day or the kids earn an unforeseen treat at lunch).
What other changes have you done to prepare for your growing child to go back to school?