August 15, 2011

School year preparations - a visual guide

School starts up for Ryken in less than two weeks.  As exhausting and wrinkle-inducing it has been to have my two boys at home, I'm still not quite ready to say goodbye.  Ryken begins a Spanish dual immersion program at a new school this year and this means getting to know a new community and having them get to know our family, food allergies and all.

Last week Sarah provided an awesome guide for back-to-school to-do's to prepare for the school year.  Below is a list of things that I'll be doing to make sure Ryken's as safe as can be starting from Day 1.  I included sample letters and photos in case you need inspiration.  If the letters are helpful to you, feel free to use to borrow language or use the letters as templates. (No lawsuits over plagiarism, I promise!)  Hopefully, between Sarah's post and mine, you will have what you need for the new year.  
  1. Introduction letter to teacher  -- Introducing Ryken.  Talking about his allergies, how we would like to handle food and class snacks, and how to keep him safe from allergic reactions.
  2. Food allergy alert -- Note with clear rules on what to give or not to give, reminders to check for food/materials safety, and details on his food allergies, types of reactions (mild, moderate, severe), and instructions on when to administer medication.  Make extra copies for classroom teachers and support staff .  Attaching a photo is especially important so that substitute teachers, librarians, prep teachers (PE, art, music, science), and office staff can easily identify your child.
  3. Email or letter to parents -- Be friendly, direct, and open.  I usually simplify the teacher letter for this but describe a couple allergic reaction experiences so that parents understand Ryken's allergies and where our school concerns come from.  I also ask parents to contact me if they are ever planning to bring in a class treat for birthdays because I am always happy to provide a safe treat for Ryken.  So far in my experiences, once a food allergy gets attached to a kid's face, parents are very sympathetic. 
  4. Medication -- up-to-date sets for school, afterschool care, and home.  Be sure to keep original packaging (to verify the medication is prescribed to your child) or else districts may not be legally able to accept this.  Include specific allergy info and instructions.  In an emergency or disaster situation, someone unaware of your child's conditions may need to care for them.
  5. Labeled lunchboxes, water bottles, backpacks -- Label to alert people to your child's food allergies (I love Allergy Alert Stick-Ons) and also to include your child's name and parent/doctor contact numbers in case of emergencies. 
  6. Treat box -- I like to make sure everything in here has a food label for extra safety.   
  7. Suggested reading for class read-alouds or just for teacher education
  8. List of unsafe ingredients(for my kiddo it's milk, peanuts, and tree nuts)  -- Pop these travel-sized lists in the treat box so teachers can easily locate them. 
Don't forget original packaging, info on symptoms, medication and dosage and a measuring cup!
Label your treat box and include avoidance lists to prevent mix-ups with other food-allergic kids.
Flashy allergy ID bands constantly remind teachers and kids about food allergies.
Books can further educate teachers and kids about food allergies.

We used a Spanish alert sticker and a luggage tag.

The crazy yellow color and huge sticker will help kids avoid mix-ups.

A last bit of preparation that has been ongoing is making sure Ryken does not share food with anyone.  No matter how confident he is that he has had a treat before, I do not want him eating anyone else's food.  There is still a risk of cross contamination with allergens on munching kids' fingertips and allergens in the same lunchbox, or the possibility that the food's ingredients have changed.  Ryken generally accepts that he isn't allowed to accept friends' foods but, at the self-righteous age of 6, he sometimes lets his desire for snacks and overconfidence in a familiar snack's safety to overtake the safer choice.

We are looking forward to hearing about everyone's new school year experience.  I'm crossing my fingers that everything will go smoothly, health-wise and education-wise.

1 comment:

  1. Irene, your sample letters are perfectly worded and so clearly written. I am going to have to use them to revise my letters. Thanks for sharing!