Back To School With Food Allergies: Matthew Starts Highschool: Part 1

It’s that time of year again…back to school! Time to organize myself in regards to the boys’ epi pens, puffers, Individual Student Plans and Medical Information Sheets for their teachers.

This year both my boys will be attending high school. Michael is entering Grade 11 and Matthew Grade 9.

Looking back upon when Michael first started at high school, I was initially a little shocked that there really did not seem to be anything in place for students with anaphylaxis.  For example, there were no copies of the Individual Student Plan…I got the sense that they had never seen one before.

Much to the school’s credit, they were more than willing to listen and work with me as I unfolded my ideas. Click here to read about how I set up Matthew in Grade 8 and Michael in his first year at high school.

Two years later, I am now known on site as I walk into the main office. I deal with one secretary, in particular, regarding the boys’ epi pens, puffers, and Individual Student Plans and Medical Information Sheets along with the Vice-Principal. Through my process of putting together Matthew’s Medical Information Sheet, Individual Student Plan and my popping in to drop off Matthew’s forgotten epi pen…the Attendance Secretary also, now knows me on site.

All have been ever so helpful, understanding and have encouraged me to continue to voice my concerns and ideas. I can’t tell you how much that means to me!

Enter Matthew…I was ever so pleased that this year, the main office had copies of the Individual Student Plan for me to fill out for Matthew. Last year, I just updated Michael’s Grade 9 Individual Student Plan, took it to his pediatrician and had both he and I initial the updated version. This year, rather than taking the entire Individual Student Plan, the office has photocopied the section his doctor has filled out. I will take the photocopy for him to initial at our next appointment. I shall do the same for Matthew next year.

Apparently, at the beginning of last year’s school year, all students, who had been identified to the office as anaphylactic, were called down to the office and given an Individual Student Plan to fill out…progress!

Each year, I create an updated Medical Information Sheet on my boys for each of their four teachers to keep in their student file with a copy for the substitute teacher. I keep it brief, to the point, on one page…with a recent student picture attached.  

The Medical Information Sheet basically outlines the boys’ specific food allergies, notes they have asthma, their medications, location of medications, and step-by-step instructions on ‘what to do in case of an emergency’….anaphylactic shock.

I also attach a copy with the definition of anaphylaxis, the top 11 food triggers, and symptoms of anaphylaxis and asthma. It is a quick reference guide for the teachers to have on hand as the Individual Student Plan is filed away in the office.

Before the boys hand out the their Medical Information Sheets, I review them with the Vice-Principal, leaving the original copy for the office to have on file. Copies are posted in the teachers’ lounge.

As the only copy of the Individual Student Plan for each of the boys is kept filed in the office…I have set up a process where by each of the boys’ Individual Student Plans are passed between their teachers for review.

My feeling is that many teachers’ are unaware of its existence…sending it around for their review brings it to their attention. For instance:  this year, one of Michael’s teachers approached the Vice-Principal in regards to Michael’s medical information packages. apparently, this teacher has a child with food allergies and was unaware of such a procedure. After discussing the importance of the packages educational value, this teacher has decided to put one together for their child…more progress!

Attached to the Individual Student Plan is a cover letter introducing my boys and their medical conditions…food allergies and asthma. I highlighted Anaphylaxis Canada’s website as a good reference and encouraged them to read Sabrina’s Story. (I gave a brief description of who she is and how Sabrina’s Law came in to effect)

At the bottom of the cover letter are the boys’ specific teachers’ names with a line for the teachers to sign after they have read over the Individual Student Plan. (I encourage the teachers to pay particular attention to page 6…The List of Strategies To Prevent an Anaphylactic Reaction)

Last year, Andy received a call from one of Michael’s teachers. The teacher did not feel comfortable signing the cover letter. Andy asked if she had read over Michael’s Individual Student Plan…she had. Bottom line…at the end of the day, that is really all we want. We had no problem with the teacher omitting their signature.

As a result of this experience,  I have updated this year’s cover letter to include a note stating that if the teacher does not feel comfortable signing the sheet, they are to let the Vice-Principal know they have read over the boys’ Individual Student Plan.

This journey is a learning experience for all of us.

Ulitimately…if one of my boys is seen having trouble breathing, displaying one or many of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock or is found collapsed on the floor…the first thing I want teachers/students to think is…this could be an allergic reaction…they could be in anaphylactic shock….ADMINISTER THE EPI PEN, CALL 911! 

Click here for Part 2.

What procedures do you go through in order to set up your child with food allergies at their school? What have you learned on your journey? Any tips?