Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Staying Reaction Free in the Classroom with a Peanut Allergy: Questions to Ask

Here's a (partial) list of questions I asked B's teacher and principal when I met with them a few days before school started. I say partial because I know that I am prone to asking four billion questions when put in a situation like this. It's not necessarily in order, just the order on the chicken scratched paper sitting in front of me. Also, I wont go into their answers because, frankly, it will take too long. Suffice it to say I got positive answers to basically everything I asked and/or requested.

I'll try to add to the list as I remember more things that I asked.

Here goes:

  1. Have you ever had an allergic child in your classroom? If so, how did you keep them reaction free (notice that I didn't say "safe" - I find people get defensive when you imply they might not be safe with them) in class?
  2. Ideally I'd like an epi kit (my definition of kit is an epi pen, benadryl single dose, her photo, and doctor's note) in the office as well as any room/location B will be. These need to be in accesible, NOT LOCKED locations.
  3. How many places will B be? Note: B has PE, recess, lunch, snacks, and art class outside of her official classroom. So we've got epikits in the office, her class, the room where art class is, a kit for the lunch/recess monitor and one for the PE teacher to carry (it's stored in the class and she picks it up when she picks up the kids).
  4. Where are snacks eaten? Where is lunch eaten? Is there an allergy table? Or do you create a barrier around my child of kids who aren't eating peanut butter?
  5. How often do the kids wash their hands?
  6. Are faces wiped after snack/lunch if the child is dirty/has obvious residue?
  7. Can I provide wipes for the above?
  8. Who provides snacks?
  9. Is the hot lunch option allergy aware? How can I contact them? Note: I have really no intention of letting her eat hot lunch, but I checked and was happy to see that no peanut products are sold in the hot lunch program.
  10. How do you handle birthdays? Can you ask parents to just be aware that there's an allergy and to let us know if there will be nuts in the treat?
  11. Can I provide you with a safe treat bag to keep in the classroom for cases where unannounced treats come in?
  12. Do you reward with candy? If so, can you come up with a non candy alternative?
  13. How will other teachers/staff that come in contact know who B is?
  14. What happens when there is a substitute teacher? Can I provide you with a printout/photo to help the sub know that she should be aware of B's allergy?
  15. Have you ever been trained on an epi trainer? If not, can I train you now? (note: I did it right there!)
  16. Do you know the signs of anaphylaxis?
  17. If an emergency happens, what is your plan of action? Specifically, is 911 called from the classroom, or is a call made to the office who then calls ambulance.
  18. Will you follow an allergy plan written by her allergist (e.g. will they give benadryl or only epi pen)?
  19. Are there other children with allergies in her grade?
  20. Will parent volunteers be made aware of her allergy?
  21. How are field trips handled? Can I be a permanent chaperone? (note: they said i could!). I mentioned that for instance, if we were going to a farm, many times the feed has nuts in it. I think they'd rather have me there than have to stress about it, and I don't mind that a bit.
  22. Can you give me an idea of the types of projects you have that might involve food? Can you give me a heads up so I can provide safe ingredients or alternatives? I gave them an example that gummi worms many times have a peanut/nut warning and that I could find a safe brand to use that wouldn't affect the project at all. They were surprised to hear that and were happy that I offered a solution.
  23. Do you have class pets? What kind of foods do you feed them? Turns out they have frogs that eat crickets. No chance of B ingesting those :)
I think that was the majority of the questions I asked. Each question started a really good, open dialog with her teacher and principal. I felt really happy about it. Of course, we'll see if everything is followed (so far so good), but they weren't at all defensive. Going in to the meeting with solutions instead of demands was my main objective and I think it worked out well. Catch more flies with honey, right?

One thing I didn't ask about was art supplies. If your child has a wheat allergy, you definitely want to ask about the types of supplies they use to ensure your child wont react to wheat in playdo for example.

Also, know that I DIDN'T ask for her class to be peanut free or for the school to be peanut free. Some of you wont agree with me, which is fine. But this is the road we're taking. B is not airborne reactive, so we are taking this road towards easing into a peanut filled world. Since there's really going to be very very little eating going on in her room, we're going this route.

Did I forget anything? What did YOU ask that I didn't?


Anonymous said...

have you explored a 502 plan? or does the school limit you to "health plans"? Does the Substitute teacher know how to use an epi-pen? Training for all? Bus driver?
- parent of a 7 year old with a peanut, tree-nut & eggs allergy since birth.

alison - surefoodsliving said...

IMPRESSIVE! That's way more than I did. I think I will take some time and explore your list again! Thanks for posting this.

Theta Mom said...

Thanks for taking the time to post this. Fantastic list! After our recent episode, I was sure to review many of these points with his Pre-school teacher. As parents, I have learned, we can never be too careful!
BTW, thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting. :)

Gab said...

Glad you guys like the list!

B has a substitute teacher tomorrow so we'll see how things go with that. Yikes!

Also, I just got thrown a curve ball when B's teacher sent an email to parents asking them to bring in a snack that corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. WTH?!? I'll let you all know how THAT goes. I knew it couldn't be that easy :)

Anonymous said...

I so appreciate you taking the time for this blog. Your last post detailing how you have thought of every last possible scenario, the careful way in which you must then relay it to the school, and then your comment about the sub coming in and the alphabet food free-for-all, just mirrors my life exactly!

Thanita said...

My DD is airborne and on contact allergic to peanuts/nuts. So I have asked for a peanut free classroom but I understand where you're coming from.

I had a question asked that I never thought of asking my DD's school. "Who goes in the ambulance with my child?" It has to be someone she trusts and feels safe with as an ambulance ride is traumatizing enough but then add to that not knowing a single person in there with you! I have arranged for her classroom teacher to go. If the teacher is sick, the Principal then the Vice Principal.

It's an important questions that I never even thought about! I'm telling all the parents of severely allergic kids to ask the same question and make arrangements. It'll make it somewhat easier on the child.


Anonymous said...

Awesome! A couple thoughts: Teachers dig organization. I meet w/ teacher before school starts and bring my question/instruction sheet, 3 medpaks--1/classroom, 1/office, 1/bus; alternate snacks, pre-printed "suggested" letter to go home to parents, and sign to hang at her lunch table--all in a plastic shoe-box. No, "Oh, I'll try to get you that soon." or "Could you come up with a parent letter, even though this is all new to you?"

FYI--Our kindergarten did a field trip to Texas RoadHouse restaurant--peanuts everywhere. Allergist said she couldn't even go back to school after--kids would be covered in peanut dust. Obviously my daughter couldn't go, so I found something FUNNER--helps her feel not as left out.

Also, ask if you can read a FAAN kids book @allergies to the class, and hand out FAAN stickers and pencils. The kids LOVE it, support your child better, and "get it" better when you take the time to educate them.

Anonymous said...

Alphabet snack comment: I find what works best in that scenario is to e-mail the teacher back in your very sweetest way, saying, "awesome idea on the alphabet snack! what a cute learning tool! when you send those out, would you mind also reminding parents to avoid nuts? that would be the BEST! By the way, B loved the project you did with the . . . . "

KmCaCFamilyof5 said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm taking notes so I'm prepared when my PA daughter starts kindergarten in 2 years. I found a peanut free preschool in our area for her, such a relief!

Food Allergy Assistant said...

You mentioned art supplies...Don't forget about egg in Tempera paint.

I recently wrote an article on hidden food allergens:


Great list of questions. This year we requested a 504 Plan. I just got the acceptance letter yesterday.

By the way, got a little giggle when I went to your site and saw a big advertisement for Smuckers Uncrustables® peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

Dr. Konarik said...

I think you did a great job covering everything. These questions are sure to help out other parents in the same situation. I think it is great that since your daughter's allergy isn't airborne you didn't request the entire school be peanut free. There are a lot of kids that will only eat PB&J so I am sure that made it easier for other parents.

Irene said...

Thank you for posting this list! My son is years away from starting school, but I am a planner and a worrier, so I am bookmarking this post so I will have it on-hand when it is needed! I am new to your blog and have been catching up on old posts. You have done / are doing a fantastic service for moms with allergic kids, especially those who are newly diagnosed. Thank you again.