Is Your Child Off to College?
by Caroline Moassessi
College acceptances are complete, and now it is peanut-treenut-milk-egg-wheat-soy-fish-shellfish free and other allergens crunch time! The pedal is about to hit the metal and the last twelve years of learning, growing and empowering will be taken out for a test drive.
It's time to break out your best organizational skills and create a checklist of what needs to be addressed before school starts and for move-in day while paying close attention to special deadlines.
Where to Begin...
- Contact the Disability Office and ask how to proceed in establishing food allergy accommodations. A growing number of schools have established protocol for managing food allergies.
- Schedule an appointment with your physician to review all school required medical documentation including suggestions and direction your school will need from your doctor to accommodate your food allergies.
- Discuss the new environment with your physician as well. Should your student establish with a local allergist? Determine which medications should the student maintain their medicine cabinet. Update any emergency actions plans for food allergies, asthma or other health needs.
- Reach out to the Housing/Resident Office to explore shared or single room accommodations.
- Ask about in-room food accommodations, are appliances, such as microwaves, refrigerators or hot pots allowed?
- Begin your work with Dining Services. It is important to use a combination of calls, emails and if possible, face-to-face meetings. These are the people who students will interact with on a daily basis and establishing a strong working relationship will make life easier! Information confirmed in emails will provide records of recent dialog for all parties involved. Address daily meals and special events management. Verbal conversations are critical in establishing very important personal connections.
- It is key to not overlook Move-In day or orientation meals.
Most importantly, reach out to other families who already have children in college for tips! Seek out FAACT-recognized support groups in the local geographic area of the new college. Local families are a wealth of knowledge and support regarding medical care, safe restaurant and food shopping suggestions, etc.
Get Move-In Day Ready!
- Create a checklist of items to be purchased and start shopping now. The goal is to remove as much of the typical college move-in stress as possible by being prepared.
- Consider how and where emergency action plans will be made easily accessible to others.
- How will your student store back-up or daily medications? Should these be managed under lock and key?
- Stock up on hard-to-find allergen safe personal care and cleaning items.
- If microwaves, refrigerators or small appliances are allowed, purchase early and teach your student how to use them and possibly practice a little in room food prep.
- Research local grocery stores that carry safe snacks and foods so you can shop on locally.
- Make sure your student knows how to find medical care on campus and after hours, including where local pharmacies are located for prescription refills.
Move-in day is very emotional for everyone! Don't forget how your student may be feeling on this day. Give yourself the space to feel sad, happy, scared, elated. So many emotions come out on move-in day, especially if you are able to accompany your student.
The good news is that thousands of students head off to college every year and enjoy full, exciting and successful experiences. The key is open communication with your child and their communication with the campus staff. Challenges will arise, as they always do in life. Having positive, strong relationships can support any situation! You've spent over a decade getting ready for this, and have faith your student will take food allergy keys and use the tools you have provided with much passion and love. And, visit FAACT's College section to download the "Off to College" checklist!
About the Author
Caroline Moassessi is the founder and author of the International food allergy and asthma blogsite, Gratefulfoodie, and is also a Huffington Post blogger. Caroline’s passion as a food allergy and asthma advocate included being the lead advocate for mandated stock epinephrine in Nevada. She presented the need for laws protecting people with life threatening anaphylaxis at the National Conference of State Legislators alongside past president Senator Debbie Smith. Caroline is a food allergy industry consultant and works to spread awareness and information.
Caroline currently sits on the American Lung Association (ALA) National Social Media Work group, and is the past regional Advocacy Chair, past National Advocacy Work Group member and is past Secretary/Treasurer for the ALA of the Southwest region and is past president of the Board of Directors for the American Lung Association in Northern Nevada. She was also a founding member of the National Allergy and Anaphylaxis Council. Caroline discusses food allergies on her local ABC affiliate network and works as a food allergy liaison with her local school district. In addition to contributing to Allergic Living Magazine, she speaks at various conferences and events to help raise food allergy and clean air awareness. Including the Food Allergy Blogger Conference, Minnesota Food Allergy Conference, Salt Lake City Food Allergy Conference and the American Thoracic Society’s International Conference.
She is a co-group leader and co-founder of the Northern Nevada Asthma and Food Allergy Education Group, which is also a FAACT-recognized support group.
Caroline has a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management and has traveled the world as a trainer in this industry. She lives in Reno with her husband and two food-allergic and asthmatic children.