Where did summer go? As store aisles go from patriotic flags to notebooks and pencils my stress level as a mother of three children with various Pediatric Feeding Disorders starts to rise. Getting kids off their electronics and ensuring summer reading is done and math skills warmed up, that’s the easy stuff. When you have a child with a Pediatric Feeding Disorder going back to school is nothing simple, but with time and good preparation it can be done and stress levels can return to “normal”. Our family starts by scheduling medical visits during late summer. That way needed medical paperwork gets completed before school starts including Emergency Allergy Action plans, Asthma Plan, Self Carry authorizations and any other required forms needed for school. Scheduling doctor visits before school not only gets us ready early but also prevents missing classroom time. One of the most important things for a successful school year is clear communication with your school. When starting a new school or preschool, I reached out to the school principal the spring before they started school. First was an email introducing our family and our PFDs and I include a request for a sit down meeting to develop a Section 504 plan. For us, the Section 504 plan has been key to achieving that clear communication. I go to the meeting prepared with handouts explaining our PFDs and a list of requested accommodations and why we need them. As kids grow those accommodations will change but the key is to have that conversation with school staff every year to determine what is best for the child. In my experience the way we approach this process can determine success. Go with a positive attitude and be willing to listen to school recommendations while knowing your ‘must haves.’ For us this includes:
Access to medicines and any PFD related needs
Proper training of teachers and staff
Emergency action plans
Safe classroom environment
Safe lunch game plan
The preparation and attitude for those discussions will determine the ultimate outcome. We have been blessed to have successful meetings and have established 504 plans from preschool to high school.
Once the Section 504 plans are in place, back to school from one year to the next seems a bit less stressful. I always reach out to our nurse and 504 coordinator one to two weeks prior to ensure the 504 Plan will be shared with all teachers before school starts. I also request a meeting in person to ensure that all teachers and staff are up to date and to answer any questions or concerns they might have. This communication to teachers and staff needs to happen before school starts so the timing to reach out to the school is critical.
With all the paperwork done and plans in place, it’s time to battle the crowds trying to find all the items in the school supply lists. But don’t sweat the little stuff. As my kids get the last few days of freedom and video games I try to enjoy a few more days of sleeping in, no carpool lanes and no battles with homework. Oh how I miss summer, but I look forward to the start of school. Good luck and have a great year!
Some Resources I found helpful getting ready for school:
U.S. Department of Education’s Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools
Feeding Matters Blog: School-Based Accommodations and Support
FARE’s Back To School Resources
Kids with Food Allergies School Resources
FAACT School Resources
- What is PFD?
- PFD Alliance
- Get Involved