FARE-CDC Collaboration Results in Resources for Schools

cdccoverThe Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) published “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies in Schools and Early Care Education Programs” last fall. The information in these guidelines helps schools to avoid, recognize, and treat allergic reactions while ensuring that students with food allergies are safely included in all school activities. FARE has created several useful resources based on the CDC guidelines to help increase awareness around food allergy management in schools.

We encourage you to review, download and bring the following documents to your child’s school:

Keeping Children with Food Allergies Safe at School

cdcthumb1Every student at risk for anaphylaxis should have an individual written accommodation plan. A child’s accommodation plan (Section 504 or other written plan) has two parts: the accommodations or services needed for the child to be safely included in activities, and the emergency care plan (such as FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan). Download this one-page handout of important recommendations from the CDC national guidelines.

Recommended Practices for Reducing the Risk of Exposure to Food Allergens and Responding to Food Allergies in Schools and Early Childhood Education Programs

cdcthumb2On pages 41–43 of the CDC guidelines are recommended practices and accommodations to help ensure that children with food allergies are safely included in school. Download this one-page handout of important recommendations from the CDC national guidelines. Recommendations for the Classroom, Cafeteria, Transportation, School Events, and Physical Education and Recess include practices such as:

  • Avoid the use of identified allergens in class projects, parties, holidays and celebrations, arts, crafts, science experiments, cooking, snacks, or rewards;
  • Use non-food incentives for prizes, gifts and awards;
  • Do not exclude children with food allergies from field trips, events, or extra-curricular activities;
  • Encourage hand washing before and after handling or consuming food; and
  • Have rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors and train staff to use them.

Actions for School Boards and School District Administrators

Data from CDC’s 2006 School Health Policies and Programs Study indicated that only slightly more than 40 percent of school districts have model food allergy policies. District policies are implemented with the support of board members, the district superintendent, and district-level staff members.

cdcthumb3School Boards can adopt written policies that direct and support clear, consistent, and effective practices for managing the risk of food allergies and responding to food allergy emergencies. A comprehensive and uniform set of district policies can promote consistency of priorities, actions, and options for managing food allergies across the district to avoid confusion and haphazard responses, as well as ensuring that practices are aligned with federal and state laws, including regulations, and policies, as well as other established school policies. Download this handout.

cdcthumb4School District Administrators can provide direct assistance to schools to help them meet the needs of students with food allergies, especially when the school does not have key staff, such as a doctor or a full-time registered nurse. Effective management of food allergies in schools requires the participation of many people. Administrators can help ensure that policies and procedures are established in order to identify students with food allergies, and that all school staff understand the school’s responsibilities under the federal laws and regulations that govern food allergies at school including, but not limited to: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Download this document.

For additional information, please visit: http://www.foodallergy.org/cdc

This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.

Back-to-School Homework for Food Allergy Parents

busFor some parents, sending a child with life-threatening food allergies off to school can feel like an overwhelming task, especially if the child is entering a new school or attending for the first time. FARE has many resources on our website’s “Managing Food Allergies at School” section, but there are a few key tasks for food allergy parents to complete before the school year starts.

Assignment #1: Get your paperwork in order

FARE’s Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan should be on file for every student with food allergies. It outlines treatment recommended treatment in case of an allergic reaction, includes emergency contact numbers and is signed by the student’s physician.

Students with food allergies should also have a written management plan, such as a 504 Plan, in place. A 504 Plan (named for Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) is a plan that outlines the accommodations, aids or services that a student with a disability needs in order to use, and fully participate in, a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

Assignment #2: Make your shopping list

Along with new sneakers and a lunchbox, add medical identification jewelry to your Back-to-School shopping list. Wearing medical identification at all times can help give you peace of mind that you are prepared should a life-threatening reaction occur. We have partnered with the MedicAlert Foundation to launch the “MyVoice” program, designed to help protect individuals with food allergies with life-saving services. The MyVoice program provides a 10 percent discount on MedicAlert memberships as well as $10 off a medical identification bracelet for both adults and children. Learn more on the MedicAlert website.

You can also purchase Allergy Caution Labels from Name Bubbles to  label items that travel to and from your house with identification and emergency contact information. Through FARE’s partnership with the company, they will be donating 20% of all allergy product purchases to FARE, with a minimum donation of $10,000 for 2014. Create your personalized labels on the Name Bubbles website

Assignment #3: Talk to your team

Putting a written management plan in place requires communication and coordination with many school staff members, such as administrators, school nurses, food service staff, and your allergist or other doctor.

Teachers are key partners in keeping children with food allergies safe and included at school. Before the first day of school, meet with the teacher to discuss the child’s emergency care and management plans. You can also provide him/her with a copy of FARE’s Teacher’s Checklist, which has 10 basic tips for teachers who have students with food allergies, such as using non-food incentives and having rapid access to epinephrine auto-injectors.

Assignment #4: Send education and awareness posters to your school

Back to School season is a great opportunity to take action and work with your local schools to educate the school community about the serious nature of food allergies. This year, with your $25 donation to our poster drive, we will send three premium posters to the school or community building of your choice to help educate and raise awareness about food allergies. This is a simple way you can provide your school with resources and make a difference!

Assignment #5: Have a family meeting

Talking to your child and explaining or reinforcing some basic safety precautions can help them feel confident entering a new school year. While each child is different, you can focus on a few things they can do each day at school, such as:

  • Knowing where their epinephrine is stored or carrying it with them at all times.
  • Always wearing their medical identification bracelet.
  • Only eating the food you have packed or approved as safe for them.
  • Telling an adult immediately if they feel sick.

In addition to the information provided here, there is a wealth of information about how to successfully manage food allergies at school on FARE’s website, including national guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), a letter from FARE to school leaders, and information about school access to epinephrine.

What Every Parent Needs to Know About Section 504 Plans

busA food allergy may be considered a disability under federal laws, such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

FARE recommends that parents of children with a food allergy create, in collaboration with their school, a written food allergy management plan. One type of plan is called a 504 Plan.

What is a 504 plan?
Section 504 is part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 that was designed to protect
the rights of individuals with physical or mental impairments in programs that receive federal assistance. This includes public or private schools that receive federal funding. Parents of children with food allergies may refer to a “504 Plan” as the accommodation plan that allows safe and inclusive access to activities at school.

What are some examples of accommodations?
Examples of common accommodations include:

  • Allergens are restricted from the classroom
  • Teacher and bus driver are trained to recognize and treat a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Food is not used for rewards, crafts or in treat bags
  • Birthdays are celebrated with nonedible treats
  • Hands are washed (or hand wipes are used) before and after meals and snacks

Does a 504 plan mean my child is disabled? I don’t want my child to be labeled.
“Disability” is a loaded term. Remember, it is only a word. Dis-able means unable and the truth is that many of our children are unable to eat or, in some cases, come into contact with food or food residue without risk of a life-threatening reaction.

Is an Individual Health Care Plan (IHCP or IHP) a substitute for a 504 plan?
No. If a student has a health or mental health impairment that is considered a disability and needs aids or services (for example: special seating at lunch, a teacher who is trained to recognize anaphylaxis), then the child should be evaluated for a 504 Plan.

What about extracurricular activities at school? Does Section 504 apply?
Yes. Section 504 (Subpart D) ensures that students with disabilities have an
equal opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. Section 504 regulations (34 CFR 104.37(a)(1) require access to extracurricular activities in “such a manner as is necessary to afford students with a disability an equal opportunity for participation in such services and activities.”

My son’s school celebrates with food almost every week. They asked me to send in a “safe treat box” so I did. my son came home many times this year upset about being excluded from all of the fun ice cream, pizza parties and cupcakes. By the end of the year, he would not eat from his ‘safe treat box’ at all. So he sat there eating nothing while the other kids celebrated. What can help?

In a private setting, it’s appropriate to take on most of the responsibility for your child. For example, at your neighbor’s barbeque, you may need to bring your child’s entire meal. However, at school, your child should not be excluded from activities because of his food allergies. Your child is entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The best way to handle these issues is before they arise by agreeing upon what is needed for your child to participate and documenting it in a 504 Plan. When negotiating these plans, the team will decide on how birthdays, holidays and other occasions will be celebrated and how your son can access these activities safely in the least restrictive environment. Many schools (due to wellness, obesity, food allergies, etc.) are moving to food-free celebrations using games and rewards such as extra recess or no-homework passes.

We are all hoping for a cure for food allergies, but until that day comes, our children need accommodations at schools, at restaurants, on airplanes and beyond. Each time we take the time to learn and educate others, we make our dream of a safe and accessible world closer to reality.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2013 issue of FARE’s Food Allergy News. Read more of the newsletter here.