One of the most common concerns shared by food allergy parents is what to do when their child starts school. And this concern is not limited to entering kindergarten for the first time; it is equally as worrying for moving to a new school, new grade, or even heading into college and university.
Most advice for food allergic parents entering school will center around very specific questions about staff training, food allergy plans, etc. and that is excellent advice but it’s really step 2 in the process. Step 1 is all about choosing a school with the right feel to it.
While that may sound very touchy-feely, bear with me for a moment because we’ve all felt it. You know what it feels like when you walk into a warm and caring home. Or you go into a business and no one meets your eye and you feel unwelcome.
Schools are no different from how you feel when you walk in a door. I was a teacher for several years before my own children began school and I could walk into any school and know if I wanted to be there, let alone have my children attend. So here’s what to look for:
Many people would suggest that you should be choosing the school based on the teachers but don’t forget that your child will likely have a new teacher each year, or even partway through the year if circumstances change. The vast majority of teachers are in teaching because they truly care about making a difference for their students, but, like any profession, there are better and worse teachers. If your child gets a teacher on the worse/indifferent side but you’ve chosen the right school, you will get backup from administration which trumps how you feel about a particular teacher anytime.
You’ll still need to ensure that the school is able and willing to accommodate your child’s needs but completing this kind of school assessment is a good first step.
Alana Elliott is the Founder and President of Libre Naturals (formerly Nonuttin’ Foods), a gluten free and allergy friendly food company she founded in response to her family’s many food allergies and immune disorders.
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