When my kids were still quite young, I was ready to have some time with adults outside of the house, but wanted to stay on my kids' schedule. I was happy to be approached by my kids' preschool principal one day and asked if I'd ever consider joining them as a teacher's aid. Perfect!
Those three years from 2007 to 2010 were incredibly eye-opening to me: I learned how dedicated all these women were (two with Masters degrees) in providing the best possible groundwork for the students' early learning. What was even more eye-opening was being exposed to the regulations - state, federal and parochial - which ensured our school operated at the top of its potential.
So when we were trained on infant and young child CPR, I of course had to imagine myself in the situation where I'd ever have to use that training. What parent doesn't dread that thought, and wonder if they'd keep it together long enough to do what had to be done? Thank God, I never had to find out.
The other training was as a result of a child having a severe allergic reaction not to food, but to bites from the horrible fire ants that are common in Florida playgrounds. These tiny beasts inflict a powerful bite that leaves a painful white raised blister which the victim eventually scratches open - it's the kind of itching that wakes you up at night tormenting you. We had a student who was bitten repeatedly on our school grounds but after school, with mom right there. He began to go into anaphylactic shock but fortunately received emergency treatment before anything more tragic occurred.
Within the week, our entire staff was trained how to use an EpiPen, and had to demonstrate we knew how to use it monthly. Our training sessions were logged and on file for the county health dept. or child services agency to review. And we all became far more sensitized to children sharing each others snacks, which 2-5 year olds want to do! In the three years I was on staff, we only had a small handful of students designated as being allergic to food, but there wasn't a single incidence of an adverse reaction during the school day. What a blessing.
I see now that there is legislation being proposed in PA (http://ow.ly/lWrSu) mandating that epipens be available at schools, and allowing school nurses to use them even if a child doesn't have a prescription on file to use one. With the stats I'm sure we're all familiar with, a child's first allergic reaction could be severe, so this logical step forward is the right thing to include. Two recent tragedies in Japanese schools last school year has convinced lawmakers there that they need to do a full-scale survey of school-aged children to determine potential food allergies, and to create manuals to identify food contaminants, symptoms of a reaction, and directions to administer epinephrine injections for all teachers to reference (http://ow.ly/lWtD1). All of this to avoid future tragedies. What a humane - and common-sense law.
While I'm not a huge fan of Florida's current governor, I'm relieved to know that Florida is one of the 12 states this year who passed laws mandating epinephrine injections be available in all schools. And I trust that all our teachers will be as diligent in understanding how to use them as Little Stars Preschool was three years ago. All our children deserve it.