Food Allergies in Schools–have a little grace

Food Allergies in School
He clung to my husband’s neck, desperately, pleading with his eyes...Daddy, please help me breathe.

The very first time it happened we got the call the day we brought our younger son home from the hospital, 3 weeks shy of our oldest turning 2.  “Kadyn is struggling to breathe. We think he might have put something up his nose that is now obstructing his airway. We’re going to take him to Urgent Care (closer than the ER).”

My husband raced to the Urgent Care to meet them while I stayed home with our newborn son. After a series of tests determining there wasn’t an object obstructing his breathing, yet having an O2 level of 61% and the inability to get a reading on my son’s lungs, the Dr determined it must be pneumonia.

My husband called me with the news.

I was screaming in to the phone. NO! He isn’t sick. He wasn’t sick. It is NOT pneumonia. Despite my plea, they were prepping him for x-rays to confirm pneumonia all the while wasting precious seconds of my son’s life.

My little boy clung to my husband’s neck, desperately, pleading with his eyes as if to say Daddy, please help me breathe. His breathing quick, shallow, and gasping all at the same time. His nose had ceased to function…there was no air coming or going. When he tried to talk, his voice was unrecognizable as his own. As time passed he limply lay in my husband’s lap, his face ghost-like in whiteness, the normal exuberance g.o.n.e. He had an O2 level somewhere in the 60s.

Fortunately (praise God!) he had a button up shirt on…the only reason the x-ray tech asked my husband to take my son’s shirt off. And what possibly could be what saved his life.

As soon as my son’s shirt came off, my husband was clearly able to diagnose him himself. IT’S AN ALLERGIC REACTION! He screamed. The blistering hives covered his little body. In some parts it was so severe the lumps were purple, the size of raised quarters. How this was missed during intake and initial assessment is beyond me.

What happened next is all a blur of quick reaction and life-saving efforts.

Food Allergies in School

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If your child has a life threatening allergy, it is best to prepare an allergy bag to remain at the school. Actually, schools require this. I would suggest getting a little bag and including the following:

  • 2 Epi-pens
  • Inhaler (if your child uses one)
  • Benadryl
  • Action plan
  • Emergency phone numbers
  • Picture of your child

Make sure you label the outside of the bag with your child’s name and picture on the front, and all emergency numbers on the back.

The inside of the bag should include the epi-pens, inhaler, benadryl and action plan. Make sure you label the outside of the Benadryl bottle with the dosage in large print so it’s easy to see. Also make sure you include the dosing cup or syringe. Basically you want to make things as easy as possible.

The Action Plan is just as important as the emergency items. This is where you again include your emergency contact numbers, but also the numbers for your child’s pediatrician, emergency contact if you’re unavailable, and how/when to give the dosing of each item, what to look for as an allergic reaction and the severity of what type of allergy that is presenting itself. A great example of an Action Plan to use is found here.

You should make sure your child’s teacher reviews your action plan frequently. You can speak with the Director or Principal and Nurse of the school to make sure all teachers are trained with an epipen and know what to look for/when to give dosing, etc. If the school hasn’t had any firsthand, hands-on experience with life threatening food allergies, I would highly encourage you to take the practice epipen and do a mini-training for the teachers prior to your child’s first day. Additionally, you can hire the Red Cross to come and train the staff. You may feel silly, but it is your child’s life they are taking in to their own hands, in a more extreme way than they are with other children. Same goes for all the parents if your child is attending a co-op or a parent participation school. Everyone that will have contact with your child should be trained.

Your emergency bag should be clearly labeled with your child’s picture and put in a visible, easily accessible spot that any adult can get to.

Remember, every second counts.

 

Choosing a Preschool–Questions to Ask

Choosing a Preschool

Again, welcome to the series: Choosing a Preschool

Once you’ve reviewed thethings to think about and determined which  preschool philosophy you would like your child’s preschool to have, it’s time to pick a preschool.

I would suggest visiting a local preschool fair, if your town offers one. It’s a great chance to see many, or all, of the local preschools and get your basic questions out of the way.

However, once you’ve narrowed it down to a select few I would encourage you to actually go visit them (see if you can bring your preschooler!) and get a hands-on idea of what the preschool is like. At that time I would suggest you determine which of the following questions are important to you and ask a handful (if not all) of the following:

1. During your tour ask to see the curriculum.

-What are the children in each age group working on?

-Will they get a chance to create artwork?

-Will the children be working on any reading, writing, etc.?

-Will the children be experimenting with any music?

-What is the structure (if any) to the day?

-What is the student/teacher ratio?

-How much tv do the children watch? (For us, I didn’t want any since I could do that myself)

-What type of experience/education does each teacher have?

2. During the tour make a mental note of:

-How many classes there are.

-Do all the teachers appear friendly?

-Is there any outside play area? If so, how is it supervised and is it enclosed?

-Are the room(s) safe and easily accessible by the children?

-How do they keep kids safe inside and strangers outside?

3. Other things to consider:

-How are the children disciplined?

-How often are the facilities/toys cleaned?

-Do YOU feel comfortable there? Ask your child too! If you don’t, trust your gut.

-How do they handle bathroom breaks for themselves and the children?

-What type of parent involvement do they require?

4. And great questions to ask if you have a child with a life-threatening food allergy:

-Are you familiar, and have you had direct experience with, children with life-threatening food allergies? Has anyone had a reaction here? If yes, how was it handled?

-Do you provide meals? If so, how many, and how do you take precautions for those with allergies?

-What type of training or experience have you (and all staff) had related to how to handle a food allergy crisis?

-Do you (and all staff) know how to use an Epi Pen?

-Could I (the parent) bring in the Red Cross for a training for the staff on how to handle a situation involving a life-threatening food allergy?

-How do you handle celebrations? E.g. birthdays, holidays, etc. regarding treats?

-What is your medical emergency routine/policy?

Always feel comfortable asking for references! After all, you would do if it you were a business owner hiring them to work for you. In fact, they ARE working for you! They are helping raise and educate your CHILD.

Of course there are probably 100s more questions you could ask. Before you go, make sure to think of everything that’s important to you and write them down! You’ll be shocked at how easily you forget once you’re there. And never feel bad for asking questions; remember, this is YOUR CHILD we’re talking about.

Anyone have any good questions to add to the list?

 

Choosing a Preschool– Different Philosophies

Choosing a Preschool

Welcome to the series Choosing a Preschool. If you’re just joining in, I encourage you start from the beginning to see what got me started in my preschool research. Then check out the introduction regarding what this series will cover. And finally, visit the things to think about post. Today I’m focusing on explaining different preschool approaches and philosophies. This was something that completely threw me. I had no idea there were so many different options out there. No, it really doesn’t have anything to do with food allergies, just demystifying all the differences.

First you’ll need to decide which approach you’re looking for: a developmental preschool, an academic preschool, or a combination of the 2. Typically a philosophy will encompass one of these approaches.

Academic—Are you hoping your child will learn letters, numbers, begin to write, and read? If so, this is the type of preschool you’ll want to focus on. An academic based preschool is very similar to a kindergarten class. Academic settings are much more structured.

Developmental—Are you hoping your child will get a chance to try a hand at art, creativity, dress up, play, outside time? Then this is the type of preschool for you.

Of course you can find a combination of the two.

 

There are many different preschool philosophies. Some of the most common:

Montessori—In a Montessori, the teachers serve more as guides. Typically, a lesson is introduced to the entire class, but then they break in to smaller groups to explore the lesson at the children’s own pace. This philosophy is that children are individual learners and learn at their own pace. The children are encouraged to learn through all 5 senses. And the classes typically have 3-6 year olds all together so the older children help the younger children learn.This approach is great for children with special needs since they receive such individualized attention. Montessoris are very hands on and also teach children how to take care of their own needs and belongings. For more info go here

Reggio Emilia—Very similar to a Montessori in the fact that the children are the leaders and the teachers are the guides. Only, with this philosophy the teachers observe what the kids are interested in first and then guide them to take on projects that pursue their interests further. So instead of the “guides” coming up with the lesson plans, essentially the kids are. A lot of their philosophy also surrounds the environment. For more info go here.

Waldorf—A Waldorf school’s teaching philosophy is one that follows anthroposophy; the belief that in order to understand the world, the children must first understand humanity (body, soul and spirit). This philosophy also focuses on creative play (creating their own toys), routine (student often continue through grade school with the same teacher) and teamwork. The original founder believed children learn best through imitation. For more info go here.

High/Scope—This is more of an academic approach. The focus on this preschool is academic skill development. For more info go here

Play-Based—Play-based preschools are just that; they focus on age-appropriate activities and teach kids through play. Typically different stations are set up encouraging different types of play (dress up, make believe, art, etc).

Religious—Preschools with a religious emphasis typically combine one of the above philosophies with age-appropriate religious teachings. If a religious component is important to you, make sure you familiarize yourself with the other philosophies and determine which you’d like to look for.

A combination—there are some preschools that combine some or all of the above.

Up next in the series will be Important Questions to Ask.

 

Choosing a Preschool–Things to Think About

Choosing a Preschool

Welcome back to the series: Choosing a Preschool. If you’re just joining us, I encourage you to visit  the introduction. Today I’m breaking down some of the things I suggested you think about when choosing a preschool and explaining why these are important, especially if you have a child with a life threatening food allergy. You may think the first few items I suggested you think about seem to be no brainers, and it’s true, a couple of the them are…

  • Age—how old do you want your child to be upon entrance of preschool? Many preschools operate for children from 3 to 5 years old. Some operate for those as young as 2, but in my opinion this seems more like daycare. Some preschools break each age group out…so all the 3 year olds are together, all the 4 year olds are together, etc., while some preschools lump them all in one. Some are even more specific than that; they break them in to every 6 months so all the 3 year olds are together, all the 3 1/2 year olds are together, etc. I knew I wanted my son to have exposure to kids his same age (socialization was the main reason we opted to send him to preschool at 3 anyway) so either breaking it out by year or every 6 months was our top choice.
  • Cost—how much can you afford to pay? This may narrow down your search simply based on how much is too much. Keep in mind that some preschools will offer a discount if you pay for the year in advance (another great reason to start thinking about preschool early…you can save!). Some preschools offer a multiple sibling discount, and others decrease the cost based on the number of days your child attends. Keep in mind too to look in to Flex Spending through the workplace! Or, write it off at tax time.
  • Potty Training—Most preschools require your child is potty trained. However, the level of potty training and assistance varies. At the time we sent my son he was fully potty trained during the day. However, he needed help “cleaning up” if he needed to poo. To this day though, he chooses not to go at preschool.
  • Parental Involvement—Some preschools require parents to spend a certain number of hours each month volunteering in the classroom. Others don’t allow parent participation at all. And others still are actually groups of parents, called a co-op, that take turns teaching their kids a curriculum they agree on beforehand. So where do you fall? Fortunately, some don’t require, but encourage parental involvement.

but there are some of the items that I suggested you think about that may seem like a no brainer, but are in fact CRUCIAL for someone with a life threatening food allergy…

  • Hours of Operation—what hours are you looking for? Do you work and you’re trying to get specific hours covered? Are you trying to find something that runs all day, or does a half day better suite your needs? Does your child fare better in the afternoon or morning (some offer cheaper rates for afternoon but this doesn’t work for everyone, especially if an afternoon rest or quiet time is still involved)? The question of what the hours of operation are is especially important if you have a child with a life threatening food allergy. Are you trying to aviod most meal times for allergy purposes? I knew I didn’t want to have a place that served breakfast and lunch even though the hours would have been nice. I just didn’t want to deal with that kind of exposure for my son. One of the places I toured even served peanut butter as a bi-weekly staple…and who knows what kind of cross-contamination their knives or even their jelly jars have from being double dipped!
  • Location—How far are you willing to travel to bring your child to preschool? This was especially important to us as parents since we could receive the call “your son is having an allergic reaction.” We wanted to be able to get there before an ambulance did if, heaven forbid, there was an emergency so we knew we didn’t want a preschool across town.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about the different types of approaches and philosophies preschools take. And then last but not least we’ll talk about important questions to ask.