If you’re thinking about sending your food allergy child to daycare or school you might have heard how awesome having a school allergy plan is. Maybe you’ve heard how they help you create an inclusive & safe environment for your food allergy child? Or, how they keep you from stressing when your child is at school and out of your reach and care?
So why does the thought of creating a school allergy plan make us squirm?
Maybe it's because,
- You want to do all you can to keep our child safe but you don’t have the time so you send an email or mention food allergies at meet the teacher night, instead of figuring out how to create a comprehensive plan (both of which I have done!).
- You love the idea of creating a relationship with your school, but you’re afraid you’ll come across as a forceful & opinionated helicopter mom (this was me).
- You’re completely on top of food allergies at home, but your school is already peanut & nut aware so you’re not sure a school allergy plan is necessary (yep, guilty).
Busy food allergy moms don’t need a lot of extra tasks on their plate. And the worry of food allergy safety at school can become overwhelming if we let it. We already know that a school allergy plan is one of the BEST tools to keep our child safe at school, but what might be stopping us from creating one?
In my experience, I’ve noticed 5 myths that are stopping us from creating the safe, enjoyable environment that our kids need and crave at school. I’ll debunk these myths for you and show you that a great school allergy plan is not only essential but easier than you think.
Myth #1. Our teacher or daycare will think we're crazy & overprotective & therefore won’t take us seriously.
Yes, I have to admit, this is a possibility if you come at this the wrong way. But there are ways to make sure you’re heard and taken seriously. Going into the meeting with a plan that focuses on real information (and proof to back it up) is the first step. The next is to make sure we’re not overwhelming our teacher with a lot of extra information. This can be a bit of an art, but trust me, it’s doable.
Myth #2. We’re good. Our school has a peanut & nut aware policy so my child will be safe without a school allergy plan.
While it’s awesome your school is taking a pro-active approach to peanut and/or nut allergy safety, it’s not all roses, unfortunately. According to a study released in Aug. 2017, peanut aware policies in schools did NOT decrease epinephrine use compared to schools that had no policies in place. Obviously, peanut policies are not as effective as we would hope in every school. Because of this, it’s just as important to make sure you’ve got a solid school allergy plan in place with your teacher directly, even if your school has a peanut or nut aware policy.
Myth #3. To create a school allergy plan, I need to be forceful & opinionated so my school will listen.
Actually, the exact opposite is true. Because you’re creating a plan, you’re also setting a groundwork of expectations and safety procedures. You’re going to the meeting with cooperation and collaboration as a priority. Teaching and working WITH your school to create a plan will reduce the chances of misunderstandings and the need for difficult discussions later. If you do find out something isn’t going as discussed, the door is already open for discussion and mutual communication. These circumstances allow for cooperation which means you can leave forceful opinions at the door!
Myth #4 School allergy plans are a ton of effort and I have no idea where to start. It’s easier just to send an email or give a binder of resources to my teacher.
It’s true. School allergy plans can be complicated, and you do need to put thought and effort into preparing one with your school. But they can be a lot easier than you think if you’re using the right blueprint and step-by-step instructions.
After 7 years of talking to teachers & schools (preschool - grade 4), I’ve learned that an email or a binder of resources doesn’t cut it. Sitting down and working through the details with your teacher is invaluable.
A school allergy plan will take effort, but as a food allergy mom you’ve already proven that you’re not afraid to do what it takes to keep your child safe and help teach others in the process. It’s just a lot easier knowing that you’re putting your precious time into the RIGHT efforts that will get results. The last thing you need is to spin your wheels and become stuck as you figure it all out.
Myth #5. My child’s allergy is less known than a peanut or tree nut allergy so they’ll be less safe. I’ll find ways to keep my child at home instead of dealing with a school.
This is a decision that you need to make based on what’s right for your family. It’s really tempting to keep our food allergy kids in the safety of our own home instead of pushing them into the big, allergen-filled world of school. I honestly gave serious thought to this myself. But by creating a good plan & relationship with your school, you’ll be doing a lot of good for your child. Not only will you be teaching your child important food allergy safety lessons that they’ll use as a teenager, but you’ll be fostering independence and self empowerment. As scary as school can be for food allergy families, it really is a place of learning more than just reading, writing and arithmetic.
As for having a “less known” allergy, this can be a bit tricky. But in my opinion, if you have someone who is willing to learn and make accommodations for one allergy, they would also be able to make accommodations for another. The underlying principals are the same for all allergies, it’s more about a spirit of willingness from the teacher & then educating to make sure they understand your child’s allergy.
Keep reading… now that you know the 5 common myths about school allergy plans, you can find out where to start your plan with this school solution lowdown.