What do you do for kids with asthma and food allergies?

Answers

Laura Burgess Martin, Special needs parent; work in non-profit sector

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My son has 15 food allergies, asthma, a feeding tube, and other medical conditions. The number one piece of advice I give parents is to communicate, communicate, communicate with the school (teachers, administration, paraprofessional, etc) from the very beginning. Always maintain a positive attitude when meeting with school employees. When meeting for my son's first IEP meeting, the meeting was overwhelmingly positive. It was clear the school wanted to do everything for my son to make sure he was safe but also included.

It is in my son's IEP that anytime he leaves the classroom, he must be accompanied by a teacher or paraprofessional. Because of the numerous allergies, the school did not have any problem with this request. He has not yet learned how to stand up for himself when it comes to his allergies and it is too risky for him to be alone at school. This has worked very, very well.

Some examples:

My son eats lunch with his kindergarten class. He sits at the end of the table, his paraprofessional sits across from him, and a student sits beside him. This allows him to be safe but also interact with students. He ONLY eats food that is sent from home (we also send his own water cup and utensils).

When there is a class celebration, the teacher does a wonderful job to not have food be a part of the celebration or to have foods similar to something my son can eat. I will send his safe snack from home.

The school nurse knows my son very well. She calls me anytime something seems questionable in regards to his health. Again, communication is SO important when it comes to the health and safety of your child.

Best wishes!

Gina Badalaty, Parent of 2 kids with disabilities, Professional Blogger

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Dr. Smith is right: every school has their own policy. My kids have food sensitivities and this can be a great challenge for us in a school. To that end, I wrote an article for Noodle.com that may be helpful for schools and families, "Don't Go Nuts Managing Food Allergies in School," that includes 7 steps that schools can take to manage this issue, as well as a number of resources.

Many of those 7 steps can also be generalized for an approach to asthmas, specifically: ensure the school nurse has supplies needed in case of an emergency, understand the severity of the problem by talking with parents or physician of the student, educate the staff on procedures for a health emergency, and ensure conditions and reactions are documented. For more tips on what to do to help a school create a plan for students who have asthma, the US Department of Health & Human Services has published the resource, "Managing Asthma: A Guide for Schools."

Dr. Aaron Smith, Ph.D. in Educational Leadership, Currently Program Director at Aviation Academy, Co-Author of Awakening Your STEM School

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Each school and even division have their own protocols as far as asthma and food allergies. Having worked with several students with both situations, I highly recommend the following:

  • When enrolling, make it know that you would like these conditions to be put on the demographic data so that anyone who has access to the student's file is aware of the matter.
  • Have a meeting with the nurse and assistant principal and from there request a staffing in an effort to create a medical plan in the event of a reaction arises.
  • Ask your student to let staff members know immediately if they feel like a reaction is about to occur and describe how they think they may have gotten it (weather related, nut allergy from cafeteria table, etc).
  • Have the treatment readily available in many locations. Some schools even allow the student to carry an epi-pen or inhaler with them at all times.
  • For the food allergy, find out if the allergy is caused by ingestion or touch. If touch, then it is important that the staff members take precautionary matters prior to the student entering (i.e. wiping off the cafeteria tables).
  • For the asthma, notify the PE teacher so that he/she will not over stress and modify the workout as needed.
  • If the food allergy is caused by ingestion, find out what ingredients are used in the cafeteria lunches or breakfasts. Of course, avoid where there are concerns.
  • Have the class where your child sits in be notified and ask for their assistance as well. Having bottles of sanitizer to give the class when they enter the class helps tremendously.
  • Follow up each year with the new staff members and classes.

Good luck!

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