Where back to discuss Part 2 in the series of how to prepare for school with a food allergy, this entry’s topic is Food Allergy School and What Not To Do. In case you missed it, check out the first post Prepare for School with a Food Allergy, Part 1 which has my Top 10 Tips to prepare for school with a food allergy. In this entry, I’ll share my Top 5 Tips of what not to do when preparing for school. Don’t forget, there’s one more in this series to come, What To Do When Your 504 Plan Is Violated, Part 3.
Food Allergy School and What Not To Do
1. Don’t Sign A Release of Medical Records
When you think about your child’s food allergy, school and what not to do it’s very important to not feel pressured to make quick, uncomfortable decisions. Medical Information is extremely private and not meant for public consumption. Never sign a release of medical records to your school; there’s nothing worse than school staff or even a school nurse or health paraprofessional interpreting your physician’s diagnosis and notes and drawing conclusions regarding your child’s medical information. A letter from your allergist is sufficient. See the first in the series entitled, Preparing for School with a Food Allergy, Part 1.
2. Don’t Accept an Individual Healthcare Plan, If You Want a 504 Plan
If what you really want is a 504 Plan, then do not feel pressured to settle for an Individual Health Plan (IHP). I cannot stress this enough. While your school may say IHPs have served them well with regard to food allergies, or perhaps you hear “we don’t do 504 Plans for food allergies,” they may not understand that an IHP is to address a student’s medical needs during the course of a school day. The 504 Plan addresses a student’s accommodations for a safe and least restrictive learning environment as well as ensuring inclusion. When you think about your child’s food allergy, school and what not to do, number two is the foundation, so never compromise.
It has been my experience that when you settle for an IHP, when you really wanted a 504, usually something during the course of the school year happens that causes parents to insist that a 504 be established. When you prepare for school with a food allergy, insist in setting everyone up for success, especially your child, by advocating at the onset and acquiring what you and your child need. When you’re thinking about your child’s food allergy school and what not to do be sure that you do not compromise on this point, as it’s the foundation for all of your work.
3. Don’t Become Emotional In School Meetings
I’m not only an advocate, but also a mother, so I understand how difficult it is to rein in your emotions when they’re teetering on the edge. Should your emotions begin to run high, suggest a short break and take a quick walk to collect your thoughts. If you find yourself at an impasse for a particular accommodation, this is a good time to ask if there are other staff members that can assist in brainstorming a solution. Or, simply table this particular accommodation for the next meeting; sometimes time away from a challenge can bring clarity.
There’s a lot to remember when thinking about your child’s food allergy school and what not to do, so if you do become emotional in a meeting, cut yourself some slack as we are all human and you’re trying to do what is right for your child.
4. Don’t let communication break down with your school.
When you think about your child’s food allergy school and what not to do, remember that planning meetings can sometimes feel very unpleasant; however, always remember that it’s all about the safety of your child. It’s your responsibility to be direct, collaborative and diplomatic when interacting and educating the school about your child’s individualized, food allergy needs. Save your anger, frustration and anxiety for the car ride home (not in front of your child/children of course). Perhaps try how I sometimes deal; say all the things you really wanted to say when you’re scrubbing your bathroom or kitchen floor. ; )
5. Don’t expect perfection out of the gate.
When you think about your child’s food allergy, school and what not to do it’s critical to remember that while some parents experience complete food allergy plan execution bliss; some parents deal with minor bumps in the road while everyone establishes a routine. Accept that there will be things that arise that will need your attention; perhaps there are accommodations that the school and you didn’t consider. It’s important to be flexible, solution-oriented and approach every situation with a partnership mentality and know that it is acceptable to add, expand and change accommodations throughout the year. You need to treat your child’s plan as a living and breathing document.
I hope that you enjoyed reading about Food Allergy, School and What Not To Do. If you missed the first in this series, take some time to review Prepare for School with a Food Allergy, Part 1. Don’t forget, take some time to review the CDC Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools, Early Care and Education Programs as it’s a helpful tool assisting in your focus and organization. Coming up…the last in this series What To Do When Your 504 Plan Is Violated, Part 3.
I’ve shared my view with you; please leave a comment and share your thoughts with me.