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By: Lilliana DeSantiago Cardenas | AFAA School Epinephrine Advocate & Editorial Contributor
With the passage of SB 1421 allowing school districts to provide stock general use epinephrine for emergencies it is important that we understand what this means.
Exciting times are here; our children are off to a new school year.  Unfortunately these are also times of anxiety and fear for many families. With the passage of SB1421 allowing school districts to provide stock general use epinephrine for emergencies it is important that we understand what this means.  Also what we can do while schools in AZ become more competent on Food Allergies, Anaphylaxis and how to help our children either with their own epinephrine or with stock.

  1. Most schools will not have stock epinephrine available this year.  By law they are only required to stock if funds have been allocated via the annual budget.  Schools may opt to purchase these through their own funds.  Check with your schools.
  2. Stock epinephrine should never take the place of your child’s prescribed epinephrine.  Bring your child’s prescribed medication to school, make sure it is not expired, label it clearly and provide clear and detailed information to all classroom teachers, aides, and any other adults that will work with your child during the school day on how and when to use it. 
  3. Be prepared and communicate, 504 Plans are essential if your child has food allergies that lead to anaphylaxis. They not only provide information and guidance on how and when to help your child, but it is a legal and binding document that is developed in agreement with school administration, teachers, and parents.   504 Plans also provide you the leverage you need to ensure that necessary accommodations are made in regards to food, medication access, and class room environment.  Also if there are violations to the 504 Plan it is much easier to take legal action and hold people accountable.  Some schools may challenge your child’s ability to carry their epinephrine if there is not a 504 Plan and information outlining your child’s condition and medication requirements.  Make sure you check in with your school administrator and nurse about this.
  4. Share training resources on how to administer epinephrine to all adults who work with your child: http://www.arizonafoodallergy.org/administering-epinephrine.html The thought of injecting epinephrine is scary for most people.  Ease concerns through education and practice with demos.
  5. Be a team! Work with the school as much as possible and understand that they are afraid too. Schools are set up to be educational institutions not healthcare providers so this is totally out of their comfort zone.  They don’t want to put your child in danger.  The more you work with them in a patient and respectful manner, the more responsive they will be.  They need to be educated on the issue, treatment, risks, and emergency management.  The more they understand that the danger is in the lack of responding vs giving someone epinephrine the more they will become comfortable and willing to help.
My experience working with schools for over 8 years on asthma, food allergies, and diabetes is that they want to help, but they don’t really know how.  They are scared and don’t want to get into legal troubles. They don’t want to hurt your child and they sure don’t want a tragedy on their hands.  Education and awareness is key and the way to achieve this is through collaborative partnership between parents, students and school.   

 
 
By: Melissa Enos | AFAA Education Specialist & Editorial Contributor
The more you make this a two-way street, the more complete your child's circle of support will be.
It's back to school time again! If you have a school age child, you are familiar with the shopping and preparing that we get caught up in every single year. If you have a child with food allergies, this entire ritual is also required – and then some. On top of everything you already have to do, you must also take into account the steps needed to make sure your child is safe once school starts. What are these steps, and how can you keep your stress level low while you prep for sending your child back to school? It is not always easy, and the fact that your child's safety is at stake makes this a very serious job. That still does not mean that it has to be a negative experience. With some planning and communication, you can enjoy an open relationship with your child's teacher while keeping your child safe at school.

 

Establish or Update Your Child's 504 Plan

A child's 504 plan should be reviewed every year. The beginning of the school year is a good time to get this done. If your child's 504 plan review is due at a different time, such as mid-year, you can still ask for a meeting to discuss changes or updates to your child's status. This is especially important if there have been changes since the last review.

If your child does not have a 504 plan in place, this is the time to get one. Whether or not children with food allergies can qualify for a 504 plan has been debated in many school districts, but their eligibility has been specifically established in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008 (http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm). You may also wonder whether a 504 plan is necessary if your child's school or teacher has offered informal supports. Although it is great that the school is aware of and willing to work with your child, the truth is that establishing an official 504 document provides your child with the legal protection that verbal agreements cannot provide. Another great resource for getting the process started can be found here: http://www.arizonafoodallergy.org/get-a-504-plan.html. Finally, make sure to have all your documentation together when beginning or reviewing the 504. This means being prepared to provide medical documents and written statements of your child's specific needs. Having all this on hand will help avoid unnecessary generalities in your child's plan and make it as individually specific as possible.

 

Reach Out to School Staff

            A written plan is a great resource, but being active and available as a parent can help establish you as a resource to the school. Get to know your child's teacher and be in frequent contact with him/her via email regarding all school activities, not just those relating to food allergies. Volunteer if possible so that you can see the classroom routines and the teacher's styles. Seeing this first hand can help you work with the teacher to incorporate your child's supports as seamlessly as possible. The more you make this a two-way street, the more complete your child's circle of support will be. An active parent is a great academic and social support for any child, and for a food allergic child, an active parent will also provide that additional sense of safety they need to know they can keep their focus on learning.

 

Prepare Your Child

            How much your child understands and how much your child can participate in his/her own plan is a very individual question. This depends, of course, on your child's age and maturity level. The first thing to remember is to not assume that your child is ready just because he or she is a specific age. One 6 year old might be perfectly ready to carry their own epi and communicate their needs, while another 6 year old is not able to do this yet. As your child's parent, you are in the best position to gauge how much responsibility your child is ready to take.

            Even if your child is not yet able to take responsibility for his or her allergy management, it is still a good idea to talk with your child and inform him or her about being aware to foods and potential dangers. Teach your child to ask questions about whether something is allergy safe, and especially teach your child to only eat foods that are on his or her food plan (packed lunch, snacks provided by mom, etc). For younger kids, AFAA has some great coloring pages that can help to bring up the subject and open the lines of communication: http://www.arizonafoodallergy.org/coloring-pages.html. Ultimately, it is up to the staff at school to keep your child safe, but that also means that school is a great place for the child to begin learning how to manage their allergies independently.

 

            Overall, the fears and anxieties you have when it comes to keeping your child safe at school are well-founded, but that does not mean they have to interfere with the quality of your child's educational experience. It also does not mean that they have to interfere with your ability to enjoy your child's educational experience. After all, soon enough you will have homework, math facts, spelling tests, and science projects to manage! With some planning and preparation, you can reserve your stress for that diorama that your child waits until the last minute to begin. You can also rest easy knowing that you are not alone on this road. The AFAA website has many options for reaching out to other parents, professional organizations, and policy guidelines to help meet whatever needs you may have.