I meant to get Caleb’s 504 plan done last fall after school started; but with his younger brother getting his cancer diagnosis Caleb’s 504 plan hit the back burner! I had our first meeting with the school staff this morning, the guidance counselor, the assistant principal, the school nurse, and his current teacher. I have to say I am pleased with our school’s handling of the food allergy concerns overall; for example they do try for peanut-tree nut free school zone. My bones of contention come in to play more when it comes to Caleb’s other allergies. Now, I know the school can and will never be a ‘dairy-free’ zone; nor would I expect it to be. However I would like to see less of the cookies/crackers/goldfish etc served as school snacks- as these can pose a problem both for cross-contamination, and for getting crushed into carpets, crumbs everywhere etc. One solution being discussed is to continue doing ‘community snack’ into 1st grade to help control what is being brought in and served. I would provide the school with an acceptable list of choices/options to provide to parents; and also have alternative snacks available for Caleb when there was something unsafe. I do not expect to be able to ‘ban’ foods with all of his allergens, but some are more easily spread than others- peanut/ tree nut oil is a good example; or cheddar goldfish crackers finely crushed and getting accidentally ingested or inhaled. I did suggest the idea of doing class snacks in the cafeteria instead of the classroom, but this does not seem to be a workable option. Our school is small, and the cafeteria doubles as the gym, so 2 days a week it is used for gym class. I also suggested the idea of food-free celebrations. I think we need to know who his teacher will be to find out if that will be the plan or not. Honestly, I would not object to making treats for special school events- like 100th day, Dr.Seuss’s birthday, Christmas or Valentines. I just don’t think we need cupcakes for every kids birthday.
Caleb’s teacher and nurse came up with a wonderful suggestion of when doing the class placement into 1st grade to try to be sure to place those children whose parents are more agreeable to comply with the food allergy policies. I was happy to hear that, as it means a little less resistance in keeping him safe. It was agreed about not keeping his lunchbox in the community class basket, to limit cross contamination risks. It was agreed to let him use a water bottle instead of the water fountain [a child touches the fountain button, drinks, wipes his mouth- high risk of cross contamination- and germs!]. I did bring up the risk in the use of some foods [dried beans, peas, nuts, birdseed all are high risk of nut cross contamination!], and food containers used for school projects in class or art; and it was agreed that alternatives will be discussed & used either by Caleb or the entire class. We talked about making sure that any incidences of bullying be addressed immediately and that I be notified of them as well. I also asked that I be called when ever Caleb is sent to nurses office, as I often don’t find out from Caleb until much later [sometimes days or weeks!]. I asked that if he is given Benadryl his teachers and staff are made aware as it can make him either tired or hyper, and so they can watch for any new or ongoing symptoms.
Many of the steps we took this year will be continued. This will include using “Epi-Pen bag” that will have his pens and action plan in it. We will be getting a more gender-neutral color to prevent some bullying. Caleb carries this bag onto the bus in the morning, hands it to the bus driver, she hands it to the teacher at school who brings it to his classroom. The bag then goes everywhere he does-lunch, recess, art, music; then home again. I had & have a lot of concern about riding the bus. My fear is that if a reaction happened on the bus- the steps taken if he does not have a pen would be: Pull the bus over; Call the garage/school, explain what is happening; have them call 911, wait for an ambulance. For me, that is TOO LONG to wait! Perhaps not as much now, as we are only 4 stops away from the school, but when Caleb goes to the middle school [& for when Jacob starts preschool-it is held at the middle school], it will be further away from home [= longer bus ride]. I have met resistance in asking about having Epi-pens on each bus, say with the first-aid kits. The concern is where they are heat/cold sensitive, that the drivers will have to remove them each day, and the liability if they were forgotten. I did get the impression that they do not want all the Food Allergic kids carrying their pens on the bus as Caleb does, [the Epi-pen bag] ~ I am not sure if that was just mis-communication, or not.
I am pleased with how the meeting went, and look forward to continuing the discussion. I look at the steps I take now: addressing the food allergies, the 504 plan, and concerns, in two ways. As taking the logical steps to help keep my son safe by preventing any potentially life threatening reactions; and as laying the foundation that I will need for when Jacob starts school, as he has so many more allergens that we deal with.