Change is in the Air!

I am so excited and encouraged by the wonderful changes I am seeing this year at my son’s school with regard to their food allergy awareness. It is obvious that the principal spent time this summer really reading and examining the policies I shared last Spring, and has been applying them to how he is managing the two schools he runs! That’s right, our Principal runs TWO Elementary schools in our district! This means these wonderful changes benefit the families dealing with food allergies in two towns! I attended my son’s soccer practice last night and heard other moms talking about the food allergy pamphlets we have been getting in our weekly parent’s folders.

 

Our principal is also very excited about implementing the FAAN “Be A PAL” program; [Protect A Life from food allergies] which teaches other kids about food allergies, anti-bullying, looking out for food allergy students, and empathy. You can see the brochure here. This was sent home last week in our folders! The impact of sharing this kind of information with families is already being seen! A child approached the principal during lunch and wanted to make sure her freeze-dried snacks did not contain strawberries because she didn’t want to make anyone else sick! Children are kind and empathetic, at heart, they want to do the right thing and protect their friends!

Last Spring I used the Loudon County Food Allergy Policy and the Massachusetts Department of Education Food Allergy Policy to illustrate to our school board that we were not doing enough to address and protect the growing numbers of  students with food allergies in our schools. Both of these food allergy plans are very thorough; I begged the school board, the principals, the superintendent all to read these, to copy and use what we could to apply to our school. I was really overjoyed to learn that my son’s principal had spent time this summer really going through these, and he’s been applying many aspects of these plans to this years school policies! This is what he compiled from the two plans and handed out to all his staff:

 

 Children with Food Allergies and Their Families:

 Revised August 24, 2012

 Not only is raising a child with food allergies challenging, it is scary. Parents/Guardians must rely on people they do not know to ensure that their child(ren) are safe and that appropriate medical treatment is provided during an emergency. Parents/Guardians must ensure strict food avoidance, understand food labeling and be on constant alert to implement an emergency medical plan at any moment. These are just some of the challenges parents/guardians of children with food allergies deal with every day. With time, support and education parents/guardians become skilled and are well prepared to keep their children safe.

A collaborative partnership between school and families can provide a safe and healthy learning environment, which will help parents/guardians and their children make the transition between the safety of their home environment into the expanding world of a school. When done well, this is one of the greatest lessons a child with food allergies can learn; they can be safe in a world outside their own home.

Responsibilities of Students with Food Allergies:

_____ Take as much age-appropriate responsibility as possible for avoiding allergens.

_____ Do not trade or share food.

_____ Wash hands before and after eating.

_____ Learn to recognize symptoms of an allergic reaction.

_____ Promptly inform an adult as soon as accidental exposure occurs or symptoms appear.

_____ Develop a relationship with the school nurse, principal, and classroom teacher(s) to assist in identifying issues related to the management of the allergy in school.

_____ Do not share Epi-Pen with other students.

_____ When riding a school bus, sit in the seat designated by the bus driver when transporting to/from school and/or during field trips.

_____ Learn where medication is kept.  (Please note: medication travels with the student only when indicated.)

_____ Assume greater, developmentally appropriate responsibility to notify “new people” of his/her allergen.

_____ Say “No thank you” when offered food that did not come from home.

_____ Assume greater responsibility for checking that the Epi-Pen is present in backpack (Please Note:  Only when  applicable.  Not all students carry their Epi-Pens).

 

Responsibilities of the Parents/Guardians/Family members of a Student with Food Allergies:

_____ Inform the school nurse and/or principal of your child’s allergies prior to the beginning of the school year –or as soon as possible after a diagnosis.

_____ Work with the school nurse to complete an Allergy Information and Action Plan (AIAP); also known as an Individual Health Plan (IHP).  Form is available on MSAD 15 website and from the School Nurse.

_____ Complete a AIAP/IHP with student’s medical doctor/PCP.

_____ Provide the school with a way to reach you (cell phone, beeper etc) and maintain updated emergency contact numbers and medical information.

_____ Provide a list of foods and ingredients to avoid.

_____ Strongly consider providing a medical alert bracelet or necklace for your child.

_____ Provide the school nurse with at least (1) up-to-date Epi-Pen and replace when used or outdated.

_____ Provide the school nurse with annual updates on your student’s allergy status.

_____  Sign a release of information so the school can exchange information with the student’s primarily health care provider.

_____ Work collaboratively with school personnel to educate the school community with respect to food allergies and the potentially life threatening nature of such allergies. This may include co-writing a letter with the classroom teacher to classroom families.

_____ Work collaboratively with the school to develop a proactive prevention plan that promotes increasing age-appropriate independence as the student grows and matures.

_____ Provide “safe snacks” for your student to keep in the classroom so there is always something from which your child can choose during an unplanned special event.

_____ Be willing to go on your student’s field trips if possible and if requested.

 

Periodically teach your child to:

_____ Recognize the first symptoms of an allergic/anaphylactic reaction.

_____ Identify where the Epi-Pen auto injector is kept while at school and who has access to the epinephrine while at school.

_____ Communicate clearly as soon as s/he feels a reaction is starting.

_____ Do not share snacks, lunches, or drinks.

_____ Understand the importance of hand-washing before and after eating with greater personal responsibility.

_____ Report teasing, bullying and threats to an adult authority.

_____ Do not show or share Epi-Pen with other students.

_____ Take as much personal age-appropriate responsibility for his/ her own safety as possible.

_____ Communicate “No thank you” when offered food that does not come from home.

_____ Do not handle Epi-Pen device when transporting it to/from school.

It is important that children/ students take on more responsibility for their own food allergies as they grow older and are developmentally ready. Recognize this is a collaborative interest shared by parents/guardians, school personnel and student. Reinforce the following with the student:

_____ Communicate the seriousness of the allergic response.

_____ Communicate symptoms as they appear-reinforce how important it is for a student to get immediate attention from those around him/her for a medically urgent situation.

Responsibilities of School Administrator:

_____ Support a proactive “parent/guardian interview process” between school nurse and student’s family in order to complete the AIAP/IHP.

_____ Provide and monitor annual training and education for faculty and staff regarding:

_____ Foods, insect stings, medications, latex allergies

_____ Risk reduction procedures

_____ Emergency procedures

_____ How to administer an epinephrine auto-injector in an emergency

_____ Develop and implement a least restrictive school wide plan for promoting an inclusive, sensitive, and responsive school climate when responding to students with life threatening food allergies.

_____ Systematically educate the school community on issues having to do with life-threatening food allergies e.g. parent/guardian information letters, school newsletters.

_____ Provide accessible emergency communication between classroom-office, playground-office, field trips-office (e.g. intercom, walkie talkies, cell phones).

_____ Inform parent/guardian/family if the student experiences an allergic reaction at school.

_____ Make sure a contingency plan is in place in case of a substitute teacher, specialists (PE, Art, etc), nurse, food service personnel, secretary and/or administrator occurs e.g. When a substitute reports to the office to check in, a note should be attached to the time sheet alerting the substitute that a child with a potentially life threatening food allergy attends the class.

_____ Verify that the substitute has completed Epi-Pen training.  If training has not been provided, staff that has had training will be made available to this classroom during times of potential exposure.

_____ Only substitutes who have been fully trained and have no reservations about administering emergency medical procedures should be assigned to fill the vacancy. This must include all teaching assistants assigned to the classroom.

_____ Have an emergency communication plan for contacting a nurse when a nurse is not on-site (e.g. beeper, phone numbers of other assigned buildings).

_____ Ensure that the student is placed in a classroom where the teacher is trained to administer an Epi-Pen(this includes all special area classrooms and lunch staff).

_____ Post common signage around the building as indicated in the AIAP/IHP.

_____ Strongly discourage all parents/guardians and staff from bringing family pets into the building.

_____ Eliminate unscheduled/unplanned classroom celebrations and/or food rewards.

_____ Enlist the help of parents/guardians of children with food allergies when determining what foods are “safe” for classroom consumption.

_____ Collaborate with parents, bus garage/driver, school nurse and classroom teacher to develop a plan when Epi-Pen must be transported on the bus.

Responsibility of the School Nurse:

_____ Prior to entry into the school (or, for a student who is already in school, soon after the diagnosis of a life-threatening allergic condition) meet with the student’s parent/guardian/ family to complete an AIAP/IHP.

_____ Provide each parent/guardian with a copy (or where to obtain a copy) of the MSAD 15 District Policy and Procedure  for “Dealing with Life Threatening Allergies in our School” to review.

_____ Ensure all portions of the AIAP/IHP are completed and the parent/guardian is clear as to the roles and responsibilities  of the child, family and school.

_____ Attach a current photo of the child to the AIAP/IHP.

_____ Meet with staff as necessary to understand and implement AIAP/IHP.

_____ Work with principal/teacher/parent/guardian to communicate with other parents/guardians about the nature of the student’s food allergies and classroom/building strategies to minimize exposure and maximize communication and understanding.

_____ Work in coordination with parent/guardian to maintain up to date (IHP) with each new school year and as needed.

_____ Ensure all school staff has received Epi-Pen training and other guidance having to do with life-threatening food allergens, symptoms, risk reduction procedures and emergency procedures. Documentation is to be kept in the health office.

_____ Maintain a list of “trained school staff” in the main office and health office.

_____ Educate new personnel when notified.

_____ Introduce yourself to the student, show him/her how to get to the main and health offices and how to attract attention should symptoms occur.

_____ Periodically work with the student to foster increasing independent skills as is age-appropriate and reflected in the AIAP/IHP.

_____ Communicate with parent(s)/guardian(s) their need to supply emergency medications and track expiration dates.

_____ Communicate with the parent/guardian to ensure that a minimum of one Epi-Pen be stored in the health office.

_____ Make sure the office staff have access to contact information for alternate nurse coverage.

_____ Monitor that epinephrine and all necessary medications and completed paperwork are received from each family.

_____ Have copies available/ready of the student’s AIAP/IHP if a 911 call is placed and the student is subsequently transported to a medical care facility following an allergic/anaphylactic response.

Responsibilities of the Classroom /Special area Teacher:

_____ Review the AIAP/IHP for any student(s) in your classroom with life-threatening allergies.

_____ Participate in all team meetings related to the implementation of the AIAP/IHP.

_____ Participate in Epi-Pen training to include:

_____ Allergens that cause life-threatening allergies (foods, insect stings, medications, latex, etc)

_____ Steps to take to prevent life-threatening reactions and accidental exposures to allergens

_____ How to recognize symptoms of the student’s life-threatening allergic reaction

_____ Steps to manage an emergency

_____ How to administer emergency medications

_____ Work with principal to ensure accessible communication between classroom-office while on field trips, the playground, special area classrooms and child care (e.g. cell phones, walkie-talkies, beeper).

_____ Keep students with life-threatening allergies under direct supervision on field trips, outdoor activities or during assemblies unless the student’s own parent/guardian is present to supervise them.

_____ Keep the student’s AIAP/IHP with photo accessible while transporting Epi-Pen (when indicated).

_____ Keep the AIAP/IHP with photo in a well-organized, accessible format for substitutes.

_____ When calling in a personal absence, report that  a student with life-threatening food allergies is a member of your class and remind secretary to attach notification of student with allergies to the substitute’s folder and time sheet (classroom teachers and specialists). Only substitutes that have been fully trained and have no reservations about providing emergency medical assistance should fill the vacancy.

_____ Be sure all volunteers, student teachers and substitute teachers are informed of the student’s food allergies and preventive safeguards.

_____ Work with principal and nurse to educate classmates, parents/guardians of classmates, colleagues and other school staff regarding proactive risk prevention and the nature of the student’s food sensitivities/anaphylactic response. These efforts should be consistent with the spirit of differentiating instruction and maintaining a safe climate for all students within their least restrictive environment.

_____ Collaborate with the school nurse and parent/guardian/family of the student with life threatening allergies on providing a lesson plan about food allergies for the class and discuss anaphylaxis in age-appropriate terms, with student’s permission.

_____ Work with parent/guardian to develop a relationship that is mutually supportive and beneficial.

_____ Educate classmates to avoid endangering, isolating, stigmatizing or harassing students with food allergies. Be aware of how the student with food allergies is being treated; enforce school rules about bullying and threats.  (Review the PAL Brochure and visiting the PAL website.)

_____ Enlist the help of all classroom parents/guardians in keeping foods out of the classroom that will cause an allergic reaction/anaphylaxis.

_____ Inform parents/guardians of any school events where food will be served.

_____ Never question or hesitate to act if a student reports signs of an allergic reaction.

_____ Eliminate unscheduled/unplanned classroom celebrations and/or food rewards.

_____ Enlist the help of parents/guardians of children with food allergies when determining what foods are “safe” for classroom consumption.

_____ If necessary, designate and maintain computer and other classroom equipment for food allergic student according to accommodations outlined.

Regarding Snacks and Lunchtime:

_____ Determine whether student’s lunchbox needs to be isolated from other students’ lunch boxes.

_____ In the classroom, establish procedures to ensure that the student with life-threatening food allergies eats only what s/he brings from home.

_____ Prohibit students from sharing or trading snacks and/or lunches.

_____ Encourage parents/guardians/families to send in a supply of “safe snacks” for their student with allergies.

_____ If indicated in a student’s plan, only “safe snacks” should be served as daily classroom snacks.

_____ Work with principal to establish an eating area in the lunchroom per school board policy, that is restricted from food to which the student is allergic.

_____ Reinforce general practice of hand washing before and after eating.

_____ Implement a routine of table washing to reduce/eliminate possible contamination with allergens.

Regarding Classroom Activities:

_____ Avoid the use of food for classroom activities (i.e. art projects, counting, science projects, parties, holidays, cooking etc.).

_____ Welcome parent/guardian of child with food allergies to be involved in organizing the class parties and special  events.  Encourage non-food treats for all classroom celebrations.

Regarding Field Trips:

_____ Completely and carefully complete all field trip permission requests to reflect food allergy concerns.

_____ Ensure a trained staff person is assigned to chaperon student with allergies.

_____ Emergency medications and AIAP/IHP are taken on field trips and kept with the supervising trained staff member.

_____ Ensure communication between teacher-office/emergency responders is accessible.

_____ Proactive planning should avoid high-risk places. Make sure to consider where and what students will eat for lunch.

_____ Completely fill out field trip permission forms.

_____ Invite parents/guardians of a student at risk for anaphylaxis to accompany their child on school trips, in addition to the chaperon. However, the student’s safety or attendance must not be conditioned on the parent/guardian’s presence.

_____ Consider ways to wash hands before and after eating (e.g. hand wipes).

_____ Identify the closest hospital to which the child can be transported for emergency care in the event of a life-threatening allergic response.

 

Funny how my children getting diagnosed with food allergies, inspired me to start this site, as well as the Facebook page I run. It got me addicted to Twitter and the wonderful “food allergy mom army” network, who share, lean and learn from one another. It led me to Thanita, from Advocate by Fate, who willingly shared facts, forms, and knowledge with me.  Whom I consider to be a true friend and ally,  her, and many others, whom are kindred spirits, taking on life’s challenges as fast and hard as they come at us! If I had not gone to that school board meeting last spring, if I had not spoken out,  if I had not had all those many meetings and email exchanges with our school principal, if I had not run and got on the school board, I don’t think these changes would be happening as quickly as they are; and I am SO glad they are! One person CAN make a difference! A difference that can protect a child, save a life, encourage inclusion and empathy! My name isn’t on any of these changes, I won’t get a plaque, or an award, nor do I want one. I know that I was the main catalyst for these changes.  I know these changes will make our schools a better and safer environment for my children, as well as ALL the other current and future students who have food allergies! THAT is the real prize! That was the hope, the dream and the goal! Our work is not finished yet, but simply by speaking out- we have been able to influence others to improve the previous policies. Our principal has taken some HUGE strides towards creating a safer environment and a solid food allergy plan for our district that is miles from where we were last fall! Change is in the air- and I LOVE it!

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One Response to Change is in the Air!

  1. Debra September 14, 2012 at 11:13 am #

    That is awesome! Congratulations! And thank you, because the more people made aware the better for all of us.

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