April 28, 2009,
D.S. asks from Chicago, IL on April 26, 2009
Peanut/Nut Allergies Lack of Support from Moms at School
My son has peanut & nut allergies. We recently enrolled him in a new school (he is in Kindergarten). The teacher sent a note to all the parents in the class that on snack day, ,no one should send snacks that contain nuts or peanuts so that my son is not exposed to this allergen. My son cannot eat anything with peanuts and nuts or if he touches something that has any bit of nuts or peanuts and then rubs his eyes he can have a full blown allergy attack which may include his throat closing. There is a Benedryl and an Epi-pen in the counselor's office next door in case of emergency. The Epi-pen is not guaranteed to work and carries its own risks Ideally, my son would not be exposed to nuts at all. My son has been going to this school about three weeks. Recently, we had a field trip and I was one of the chaperones. One child in the group brought a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and one had a Butterfinger. SInce I was there, I made sure he didn't come in contact with it. So, at first, I didn't think anything of it. But then I thought about the note that was sent to all the parents and realized that at least two of the parents have ignored the teacher's note. This allergy is potentially life threatening. How should I handle this situation at his school. I hate to "ruffle feathers" but it is my responsibility and desire to protect my child. Any ideas? Your advice would be so appreciated.
C.O. answers from Chicago on April 26, 2009
I don't think the other parents did it on purpose. The other parents would probally feel terrible that they forgot about your child's allergy. It takes time for everyone to remember and be on top of it. You have to remember that up until now thay have been able to feed their children whatever thay wanted. I would ask the teacher to send home a note again and add some healthy peanut free food choices to it. My daughter was allergic to milk, she finally out grew it at 15! and believe me we had to keep reminding everyone including family!
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S.Q. answers from Chicago on April 26, 2009
I have found the best way to manage our son's food allergies while at school is to maintain an on-going, open, daily-if-indicated conversation with the staff, including the teacher, aide, director and anyone else who might need to know, such as the after-school teachers. Each year, at the first parent meeting of the year, I give an allergy presentation to all staff and parents. Prior to this child, I can honestly say that I had NO idea what it meant to have a peanut allergy, how serious it is, and how SCARY a reaction can be for staff, kids and parents! So, I do not assume that any staff member or parent is on the same page as me. We live this daily, but other parents have other stuff on their minds, not my child's food allergy! And that is okay. So, I keep reminders short, polite and let everyone know that I am grateful for their carefulness.
Have you had an allergy meeting with this teacher and director yet? You should have a written plan in place. Make sure several adults are each properly trained to recognize signs of an allergic reaction and administer the Epi-pen. There is an RN at Children's who does free inservices on this topic.
We place a STOP sign on the door of each classroom in the school, since peanuts/tree nuts are not permitted in any classrooms. Each parent receives a letter at the beginning of the year thanking them for their cooperation. I include a list of nut-free snack ideas. Samples of peanut-free alternative spreads. Email me if you need more support or ideas!!
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J. answers from Chicago on April 26, 2009
I don't think it's between you and the moms, it is the responsibility of the school. After all, they are the ones who will be sued if your son does have a preventable reaction. I'd ask for a meeting with the teacher, school nurse, and principal.
My niece (who is in Michigan) has another condition that is food-related, and the school pays for an aide (shared with another child who has a completely different issue) to sit with her at lunch and snacks to make sure her food is not contaminated! That's a real stretch - and my niece's condition (severe celiac) is unusual - but that's the sort of costs the school could potentially incur under federal law if they don't get their act together.
I'd also connect with the PTO, and if your school has a wellness committee or room parents committee, with them. (about this subject and activities in general). I would not try to persuade the parents directly. Don't open up the door for argument or discussion about food allergies. Don't go down the path of trying to debate medicine with them. You will be bound to run into someone who will want to tell you it's all in your head or sell you their expensive supplements or whatever. Just tell them "this is what my doctor recommends, and this is what must happen, how can you help."
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D.T. answers from Chicago on April 27, 2009
I too have a son with Peanut allergy. I did find these two websites concerning laws to protect kids at scool in Illinois also with links to inform teachers and parents. I know it stinks regarding other parents....and others NOT GETTING the SERIOUSNESS of the allergy! We pray every day for a cure. In my school district the teachers check the snacks before giving them out. If someone sent in the wrong snack the kids didn't didn't get one...THE SENDS A CLEAR message to the parents too. Also the kids have to use wipes for their hands prior to going into the class room. I would ask for a meeting with the principle and teacher. Don't be embaressed. Maybe suggest the above + make a list of appropriate snacks that Moms would have to referr to. Make a BIG deal of the seriousness! I hope it gets better. So excited about the new research of kids being able to increase there tollerance to peanuts. My son is allergic to Peanut, Milk, Egg ande Soy. The great news is since giving him fruits and vegtable supplment (Juice Plus) I gave it a try since allergies are an immune disease. This just made sense since it is clinicly proven that it improves the immune system his allegies have IMPROVED greatly. Let me know if you would like info on it.
I'm all about healing them from the allergies!
Best of luck!
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J.V. answers from Chicago on April 27, 2009
I think the best thing you could do is to teach your child to (1) recognize nuts and peanuts and (2) to not touch them and/or eat them.
You won't always be around to manage his environment, so I personally think the best and only real thing you can do is to teach him to live in a world where there are nuts and peanuts.
I can easily see how another parent might have forgotten about your son's allergy. I can also see how easy it would be to forget if the only thing your own child would eat was peanut butter and jelly.
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L.S. answers from Springfield on April 28, 2009
Hi D.. I just saw your your message today and want to let you know that your child can obtain a 504 plan at school. The schools don't tell you about this plan becasue it is a pain to implement (on their part). You need to be an advocate for your child. The 504 plan is a medical plan for anyone who has any type of medical issue. At my daughter's school, they created a "no peanut zone" in the lunchroom, but I'm not sure what they did in class because she is an older child. My daughter is diabetic and I didn't learn of this plan until the end of the kindergarten year and was angry because no one told me. I got my daugter into a school this past year that has a full time nurse and it has been much better (she's in 2nd grad now). No one will go out of their way to help you so I would go straigt to the top, the Superintendent, and go from there. That is when I got answers and got what was best for my child. Good luck and I hope things will get better.
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E.P. answers from Chicago on April 27, 2009
Yes, it is terribly scary for a chid to have an allergy. It's not totally realistic to think that every mom will make sure their child doesn't have a "peanut item" in their own, personal, snack bag, if they are not sharing their food. I don't believe these moms meant to ignore you or did this with any kind of malice - the snack was for their child and not meant for your child to share.
The best thing that you can do is to keep those lines of communication open with your teacher. Make sure that the teacher has a bag of "safe snacks" for your son to enjoy so that he is never excluded in a snack moment (should he ever doubt a certain snack) , should an event happen like this again. Some teachers and principals make it "mandatory" in their schools" to basically, outlaw peanut items in their school (especially if one of those have children with allergies!) In the future, don't assume that your allergy warning will make it to all teachers who will see your son during the day - you must take the effort to contact each teacher to alert them, in person and in writing is best- they see so many kids in a day.
And... your absolute best defense is to make sure you educate your son to ONLY eat what you have given him, for lunch" and to not share food. He needs to learn how to respond if he is in close contact with the offending food item - he should be able to take another seat and the teacher will understand that he should do this, too. Also, make sure that he wipes his area clean before he begins to eat, if he is eating in a cafeteria type setting. And... any "funny feelings" that he should experience should alert him to seek medical attention immediately.
Don't worry about the ruffled feathers. We are our children's BEST advocates! Good luck.
EDIT: I did think Lori's answer was very interesting and had to find out what the 504 plan is...
I will be passing that information along to others too. It's great to get an education on this web-site!
T.S. answers from Chicago on April 27, 2009
Your post states that the note requested that parents don't send nut items on "snack day". By reading that, I assumed that meant that if I was sending snacks to school to share - no nuts. I didn't interpret that to mean that I couldn't send my child to school to eat whatever s/he wanted.
I really, really don't think that any loving parent would intentionally ignore the note. But, as another poster mentioned, they have been able to send any food they chose until your child arrived - just three weeks ago.
Another poster mentioned that those that don't live with the food allergies don't see how serious it acutally is. I agree 100%.
There have been some great suggestions posted for you. I think communication with the school and teaching your son (I know he's only five) to know what's ok and what's not are the places to start.
Good luck, I'm sure this is probably pretty stressful for you and your family.
A. answers from Chicago on April 27, 2009
I agree with the other moms as well. My daughter seemed to learn about her allergies quickly and associates the chocolate to her nut allergies and won't go near it either.
Next year, your son will have the option to sit at a pnut free table given his allergies. My daughter (who is not allergic to pnut but fears cross-contamination) actually likes this table. I think they get a little more attention there! Also, I am surprised that the nut allergy is the first note sent to the other parents. At the beginning of each year and periodically throughout the year, we get notes reminding us about nut, milk, gluten, strawberry allergies. I swear the list is longer every year!! It seems like we get them before class parties and field trips as well as at the beginning of the year and after winter break.
It may be good to discuss this with his teacher next year escpecially (since this year is winding down) to see how the next teacher approaches these allergies. Also, once we started getting involved in activities at the schools and meeting people, moms would ask me about the allergies and it would open itself up for educating them. Turned out to be a great thing for playdates and soccer snacks, etc.
Good luck! It seems they do learn quickly about the dangers. My dd got a gentle reminder of her allergy when we did our testing this year to see if she had outgrown any...
A.R. answers from Chicago on April 26, 2009
I don't think the parents "ignored" the teacher's note. Think of the family structure nowadays - we don't have a whole bunch of families where both mom and dad live together. There are single parents, divorced parents, grandparents and nannies as caregivers. That's a lot of people who might have "missed the message" as opposed to thinking "screw the kid with the peanut allergy - MINE is going to have the Butterfinger!" while packing the lunch. And while I'm not defending their actions that would be harmful to your son, people who have no experience with peanut allergies really do have no idea and it isn't on their radar screen 24-7 like it is on yours. It's likely that they forgot about it as opposed to blatantly ignoring it.
The best thing you can do it to continue communication with your son's teacher and the school and remind them of the potentially life-threatening effects that could occur.