August 10, 2011

Back to School (with food allergies)? Already?

I am deep in vacation mode.  You could probably tell from my lack of posts lately.  I am without any of my usual distractions from home: my DVR, sewing machine...and even our laptop is usually monopolized by my husband's attempt to work.  Surprisingly, relaxing is very hard work.  Just left with a few library books brought from home and daily ritual of sleeping in and napping in the afternoons.  Who knew I was so sleep deprived?

Slowly, slowly, though, thoughts of back-to-school have crept into my mind.  And with them, my thoughts of anxiety over a new teacher, classmates, birthday parties, soccer practice snacks...

And then I realized I never even collected Tristan's allergy meds from his camp director.  Wow.  I am not organized.  And school starts in less than a week.  Yikes!

A few things to do to get yourself back on track for back to school (if you're like me, and let summer get the best of you):

1. Locate your extra allergy meds bag and label or relabel it appropriately.  I will need to relabel Tristan's high tech freezer bag with his name and his new classroom and teacher's name.

2. Get your school medications forms filled out.  For me, I will have to locate them first (Remember when the school secretary gave them to me way back in May for the upcoming school year?  Unfortunately neither do I), then bring them to the allergist to have them filled out if necessary.  The allergists generally don't like it when you bring them a 6 page packet and tell them you need it asap.  If you don't have your forms yet, you can probably contact your school district's office or school directly about a week before school resumes and get them.  After some searching, I found San Francisco Unified's Allergy Emergency Care Plan (scroll down) and Medication Form (three more bullets down) under "Medications and Emergency Care Plans."

3. Label your child's lunch stuff, including thermoses, food containers, and lunch sack with her name and allergies if you can.  You can use stickers or just write all the info clearly with a Sharpie.  You may also include his doctor's name and number, and your name and number.

4. Write a letter to your child's teacher with enough information so that she understands the severity of your child's allergies and a short health history.  Be sure to include a recent picture, some of his common symptoms and words your child uses to describe his allergies (tongue feels itchy, food tastes spicy, etc.), an Epipen Jr. cheat sheet (find printable version on this page), and other resources.  I like to provide Tristan's teacher with an age-appropriate picture book she can read to the class, and some birthday party treat suggestions that are safe for your child (I started a streak of soy ice cream Cuties at Logan's school).  I also like to ask at this time if I could send a letter to the other class families about his allergies (this usually gets distributed at Back-to-School night).  This year I'll also include our blog address, along with my other contact info.

5. Write a letter to the other families in your child's class so that they also understand his allergies.  This might contain information similar to the letter to the teacher.  Keep a friendly and open tone so that they feel they can come to you with questions now or in the future.  Include a cupcake or cookie recipe that is safe for your child (be very specific in terms of products you use), in case other families are inspired to bake something your child can partake in.

Here is a Wacky Cake recipe you can copy and paste onto your letter (egg, dairy, soy, nut free):
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vinegar (I use balsamic)
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup cold water*

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Add vanilla, vinegar, oil, and water (some recipes say to make three wells for the vanilla, vinegar, and oil, and then add the water over all of it and mix.  I just throw it all in and it seems fine) and stir until moistened.  Pour into a lightly greased 8x8 baking pan or lined or greased cupcake pan (makes about 12 or so).  Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it springs back when touched lightly.

6. Consider getting some play date cards with essential allergy info, in preparation for the inevitable play date season.  Tristan's have his pic, name, allergies, meds, and my cell info.

7. Locate your allergy bracelets, necklaces, or other jewelry to help your child, his teacher, and everyone around more aware and confident about his allergies.

8. Plan on discussing your child's allergies with other parents in the class.  This may take some mental preparation, not to sound too pushy or anxious, while still straightforward and friendly.  It is my job to help Tristan become "that Star-Wars-loving kid in the class who loves building stuff" instead of just that "food allergy guy".

9. Buy a box of allergy-safe snacks (individually wrapped are good choices) for your child's classroom teacher to stash in case of birthday parties and other celebrations.

Some dairy, nut, and egg free options for classroom stashed snacks
10. Take a deep breath, take a mental picture of your vacation/staycation (better yet, print out and frame some to put around the house), and get ready for a whole new school year.  Because before you know it, your child will have made a few new friends, grasped concepts he never could have before, and maybe even completed his homework without any nagging from you (ok, maybe I am stretching it a little...).  Happy new school year!

1 comment:

  1. Sarah, excellent guide to preparing for the school year. Thanks for sharing this with everyone.