This summer has absolutely flown by! And while a week ago I was hanging onto the sunshine and warmth for dear life, this week I suddenly feel ready for crisper air, sweaters and soup in the crock-pot. I think it may have a lot to do with the fact that JT had a very succesful first week in first grade and so my fears of him starting in a new school with a new teacher have been relieved and I’m starting to relax…a little bit anyway.
Our school system has been wonderful, but I know that I still have to work hard to advocate for JT. It’s really important for me to start making sure all of our medication and forms are up to date and that the staff is fully aware of any updates or changes to his medical history well before that first day of school. I also have to be sure to educate myself on any changes in school and classroom policies. Being prepared helps me to be able to enjoy sending JT off to start the new year.
Over the summer I was able to get in touch with JT’s new teacher and we chatted about his allergies. I immediately felt like he was in good hands. The first thing that helped was that his teacher taught at his old school last year and so she already knew of JT and his allergies. Second, she is good friends with his teacher from last year and so they were able to discuss, at length, what worked in her classroom and what didn’t work (I’m confident that this info would have been relayed regardless of friendship, but still, I think it was helpful). Third, his new teacher has severe food allergies. Knowing she has food allergies means that she “gets it” on a level that many people do not, it also means she can be a role model to JT as a succesful adult who lives with severe food allergies and that is really important for him (and me) to see. Now, this doesn’t mean that a teacher who does not have food allergies won’t “get it”. JT’s teacher last year was nothing short of amazing and didn’t have food allergies. It just means that I have to do less explaining and quite honestly, less hoping that she understands.
Aside from JT’s teacher, there are other factors that have made me feel confident in this new group of people who are responsible for JT on a daily basis. The first is that his classroom (which includes several children with food allergies) is the closest to the nurses office (where his epi-pen is kept). Also, they will continue to have a peanut free table in the cafeteria. Even though peanut is not JT’s worst allergy, I continue to have him sit at the peanut free table because I feel like that way the lunch room monitors always know where he is. After speaking with the nurse we were reassured that the school would continue to follow JT’s individualized health plan from last year. Some of the accommodations stated in his plan are that children will wash hands after lunch and snack, that JT has his own trash barrel in the cafeteria so that he doesn’t have to touch a barrel that has been contaminated with his allergens and that the we can provide extra snacks to be kept in the classroom just in case something were to come in to contact with JT’s food (for example, a milk spill). In addition, classroom celebrations continue to be non-food based – yay!
I feel like our school system has some great policies in place and they have been willing to work with us to make modifications that will keep JT safe. I wish that every child and family with food allergies had a similar experience but I know that is not the case. If you feel like your school system is not doing all it can for your child’s safety, I would strongly suggest having your child put on a 504 plan. Every child deserves the right to learn in an environment that is safe for them!