Today Dave and I went to the public elementary school Ainsley is set to attend in August to meet with the staff about formulating a Section 504 plan that will list the specific accommodations the school will make for her food allergies. I was not that nervous about the meeting because the school has already made accommodations for a severely peanut-allergic first grader and I have already talked with his mom several times and Dave and I had agreed that almost all of those accommodations would work for Ainsley.
We met with the nurse, counselor, principal, and the teacher who had the peanut-allergic child in her class last year, and who will be Ainsley's teacher this coming year (it is great to know in advance who her teacher will be). They were all very nice and wanted to know all about Ainsley - what her personality was like, where she had any other issues (allowing me to tell them she was in occupational therapy for slight motor skills delays), and how we first learned about Ainsley's food allergies.
We then talked about the accommodations the school is currently making for the peanut-allergic first grader. I told them that I wanted all of the same ones implemented for Ainsley except that I wanted to discuss "the peanut-free table issue." Currently, the school has a peanut-free table that the first-grader sits at. He can have a couple of friends sit with him if the teacher checks their lunch and determines that it's peanut-free. I was worried about that because Ainsley is a very shy kid and it's hard for her to warm up to other children. I felt that any social isolation like that would be detrimental to her developing social skills.
Prior to the meeting, I expressed my concerns to family and friends knowledgeable of school procedures (I am lucky that my sister-in-law is an elementary school counselor in the same district and that my mother-in-law is a retired third grade teacher) and came up with an alternative that I felt good about: having Ainsley sit at the same table as the other kids but in a designated spot at the end of a row. The cafeteria staff will clean off her spot before she sits down (this will be easy in kindergarten because the tables will have all been cleaned before they sit down) and her teacher will check the lunches of the two kids who sit closest to her to ensure they don't have any peanut/treenut products.
Everyone in the room this morning seemed happy with this plan. I am sure that, in practice, there will be hiccups. I guess I am comfortable with it because Ainsley's been eating at the same table as her preschool classmates for the last three years and she has never had an allergic reaction because of it. Of course, her preschool is peanut and treenut-free, but she's still been surrounded by kids eating dairy and egg products and hasn't had a problem. Because of this experience I have determined that she seems far more likely to have an allergic reaction if she accidentally ingests a food she thinks is safe rather than if her skin comes into contact with residue of an offending food. Therefore, my highest priority is making sure no one gives her a food to eat that isn't safe - I am less concerned about residue issues.
Thoughts? Ideas? Once I receive a written copy of the 504 plan I will post it here. I am still in shock that my baby is old enough to be getting ready for kindergarten!