Last month, I wrote a piece for So Delicious Dairy Free about Back to School and Food Allergies: How to Have an A+ Year. In that article, I suggest writing a letter about your child's food allergies. Today, I wanted to provide you with an example. I hope that you will add any comments or ideas at the end so that we can all learn together how to best navigate these choppy food allergy waters.
When my son with food allergies started kindergarten 8 years ago, I was terrified. I fretted that he would feel left out when other kids had treats and snacks in class. I was worried that he would accidentally eat or be exposed to his allergens. And I worried that friends would rather avoid dealing with him than have to take on the extra steps of keeping him safe.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a communicator. In some cases, an over-talker (just ask my sister!). With so many children in a classroom, I couldn't talk to each of the parents in his class, but I could do the next best thing.
I wrote a note. It looked something like this:
My son, Casey, is in your child's class this year. Casey has serious food allergies. He is allergic to milk, eggs and nuts. That means that he can't eat anything with those ingredients or anything made on shared equipment with those ingredients or manufactured in the same facility. If he accidentally eats something he's allergic to, he could get very sick, very quickly -- anything from a skin reaction to problems breathing or even worse. His allergies are potentially fatal.
We are very careful about making sure that his food is safe, but we could use a little help in keeping him safe as he starts school. These little things will make a huge difference to us:
- Please let your child know that Casey can't share food with her.
- Please ask your child to wash his hands with soap after eating. (That way, there's no worries about yogurt ending up on a pencil that can end up in a mouth.)
On our end, we will gladly do whatever we can to make it easy for you. If you're hosting a birthday party, we'll send our own safe snack. If you want to have Casey for a playdate, we'll provide a treat or suggest snacks that are safe. We don't want you to feel concerned about including him.
Here is my phone number xxx-xxx-xxxx and email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or concerns.
We are so excited to start the school year with you!
Thank you for any help you can offer our guy!
Kim and Steve Lutz (Casey's parents)
This note had absolutely astonishing results. My son has had a fabulous experience in school. His friends and their families have looked out for him at every turn. With 1 in 13 children living with food allergies, more and more families are familiar with this condition today. It's empowering to other families to let them know how to help, and it's always a good idea to bring people on your team. The more people we have looking out for all of our children, the better and safer we all are.
Shared with Allergy Free Wednesdays.
My new book, Super Seeds, is available now! You can also find tasty recipes in Welcoming Kitchen: 200 Delicious Allergen- & Gluten-Free Vegan Recipes.