With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.

23 August 2013

Food Allergies at School: Plan for Substitute Teachers and Nurses

With the start of school, there are a wealth of blog posts and articles about going back to school with food allergies. One thing that frequently gets overlooked is substitute teachers. None of the schools where I have substitute taught have addressed the issue of food allergies (or asthma, for that matter) with me. You'd think they'd want to let substitute teachers know what their practices are in case of an allergic reaction, and at the bare minimum, make sure the substitute knows how to recognize the symptoms of an allergic reaction...

Having done a good deal of substitute teaching in the past, I wanted to emphasize the importance of having some sort of plan in place for when there is a substitute teacher or substitute nurse at school. After October 1, substitute teachers begin to get calls. Teachers get sick or attend workshops, and your child will end up with a substitute teacher at least once during the year. If your school uses a computerized system for substitute job assignments and/or does not interview substitutes--as is the case in many public school systems--just about anyone who hands in the requisite paperwork may substitute. They may not have a certification as a teacher or experience with children at all. Can you depend on them to recognize an allergic reaction? or an asthma attack?  What if the nurse is out sick?

This is yet another good reason to make sure you have a good plan in place. Your child's regular teacher or the regular school nurse may have it down to a science and you may all be on the same page, but what if there's a substitute? Do your plans depend on a certain person being present or is there something in writing in place, that will work even if the usual players are out?


Jenny said...

Great points! We did have this come up with our elementary school and one teacher dealt with it by having an emergency action plan taped to her desk. I thought that was a clever idea.

Purls of Knitting said...

Thanks for raising this issue - it does occur. When my daughter was in elementary/middle school, I made an extra set of her emergency action plan and it went in each teacher's substitute folder or binder. I taught my daughter to introduce herself to the sub and let her know that she is the one with the allergies that are outlined in the action plan in the sub folder. It worked well and empowered my child in taking care of herself.

Gratefulfoodie said...

Good discussion! My school has a sub plan but interestingly enough, when there was a sub this last week the plan went differently.

There is a binder with the data right there front and center and the sub knew about my daughter's allergies. But when snack time came, the sub wouldn't allow anyone to eat snacks due to my daughter's allergy?

All I can think of is that the sub didn't feel in control of having food in the classroom. The student avoid bring in tree nuts (my daughter's allergens).

It was an odd overkill.