Friday, May 04, 2007

Working with our schools

I recently got an informative email from a friend of a friend -- who I "met" via this blog -- about what she is doing to prepare for kindergarten for her child. She agreed to let me publish her email so we can all learn a little more about what other moms are doing. She has a 4 year old (nearly 5 years old) daughter who is severely allergic to Peanuts and tree nuts and Eggs. She also has a 2 year old son who is allergic to Milk, Eggs, Red Meat, Cinnamon, Apples, Tomatoes and has outgrown Wheat allergy. He has a soy intolerance as well. So you can see, she has been dealing with food allergies (and lots of them) for quite a while.

I noticed your blog about kindergarten. Lauren is starting too in the
fall. I am meeting to get a 504 plan together.

You should absolutely consider this. We met with a partner at Hinshaw Culbertson who works on the school side and handles almost all the Chicagoland schools and represents them for ADA rules and IHP's and 504's. He recommended to me to do one and get it all in writing. As long as it is a "reasonable request" then they have to comply.

I am insisting on a peanut free lunch area w/ our school because they can't guarantee that someone can wipe down the tables and the handles on the doors, etc....Lauren can't be held responsible at age 5 to do this.

They MUST also train the teachers and teachers MUST administer the Epi PenJr. if need be. Teachers will try to not do this and reference a state contract, BUT the Federal law of ADA supersedes that he told me.

I meet w/ principal and teacher this Wed. at 2:30. Every school has an assigned 504 coordinator. Some schools it's just an extra role the principal or teacher takes on while others have someone who does it full time for the district.

I hope you consider this because I think a 504 plan will help the teachers take it more seriously. I told you, I got the entire downers grove park district to change their food in the vending machines to peanut free and stopped any products containing peanuts from entering any of the pre-school snacks and no more home baked foods whatsoever.

All b-day treats left in the hall to be "take homes". They also must wash their hands or use Handi-Wipes upon entering the classroom. Janitor is required to clean Lauren's classroom first w/ clean towels. I go and "spot check" this once a month as a "surprise" to make sure that's how it is happening. I also pre-approve all snacks before class. I double check the ingredients and they can only bring in foods that have no peanuts and also are safe for Lauren to eat.

I have done a lot of work in my town and honestly, it's difficult, time consuming and parents get mad. But they're only mad a month or two and now no one cares. And for first time moms, they don't' know the difference, it's the moms who has older kids and didn't have to comply. But they got over it.

I just wanted to pass this info along. Also, don't' forget, epi's can be left in classroom NOT in nurses office and can be carried on the child as well... Hope this helps.

Wow, as you can see she has been very busy and working hard to protect her child so she can be a normal kid at school (versus home school or something else). Luckily, Big Guy and Little Guy don't have such severe allergies ... they need to ingest the food they are allergic to, not just have it in the air. But, it's helpful to hear what other folks are doing for their kids.

I have to admit, I had no idea what a 504 plan is, so I went to my handy-dandy allergy-related web pages to learn more. First I went to Allergy Moms where I got linked to FAST where they had lots of links and I swear they had a good example of one of these plans, but for the life of me I can't find it. Anyway, another site defines it as:

The "504" in "504 plan" refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or post secondary schooling. "Disability" in this context refers to a "physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities." This can include physical impairments; illnesses or injuries; communicable diseases; chronic conditions like asthma, allergies and diabetes; and learning problems. A 504 plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers, and might include such things as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, an extra set of textbooks, a peanut-free lunch environment, home instruction, or a tape recorder or keyboard for taking notes.

Good to know. Still not sure what I'll have to do regarding all this for Big Guy, but now I know more about some options.

3 comments:

Check My Tag said...

Did you check the Food Allergy Initiative? They have a sample 504 plan written by a mom of a food-allergic child. Here's the link: http://www.foodallergyinitiative.org/section_home.cfm?section_id=4&sub_section_id=4&article_id=35

Ria

p.s. You probably already know that all the federal regulations that apply to food allergies are only relevant for public schools (or, as it says in the text you posted, federally funded). I have some friends who are having issues with their parochial schools.

nowheymama said...

Also, there may be a state law to be followed as well. In PA, it's a Chapter 15 agreement, a subset of the federal 504 regulation.

Anonymous said...

Good news: What most people don't realize is that almost 100% of parochial schools indeed get federal funding. They are on milk program or receive funds for text books. I told Anne that even a private school where I live that charges $16,000 a year gets the milk program and is therefore susceptible to the law. I know the two parochial schools in my town get federal funds and there are hardly any schools that don't, public, private, religious. The schools do have to let you know if they receive federal funds and you can look it up on the internet. Also, the problem usually lies in the fact that the school thinks they are exempt because they havent' been challenged on it and more times than not, the 504 coordinator has no special training or anything to have that title. The attorney told me the school could assign a principal, a lunch lady, a janitor for all it mattered and they usually dont' understand the "reasonable request". There are many peanut free schools in the city of Chicago too that are private, I know of several. Lake Shore Prep and North Shore School to name two. THe biggest day care, the Honey Tree is also peanut free and that's just for starters. Thanks.