Back to the Food Allergies

I joke that I live in a zoo. It’s kind of literal, we do have a crapton of kids, pets, other people’s kids, etc. It’s also kind of a metaphor for the controlled chaos we have going here between work, kid activities, my activities, our hobbies, and just life in general. One of our underlying, longstanding issues is of course the life threatening food allergies that Dorothy still has, that she always will have. We have done our very best to keep everything she does as normal as possible but the undercurrent is always there. Because we have constructed many strategically placed barriers, sometimes we as a family, her friends and her teachers can almost forget. Almost. Well, until we have an issue.

I’ve talked a lot in the past about the 504 Plan in place at school. It has many classroom modifications in place and lunch room procedures that allow Dot to operate within school safely, and hopefully without fear of allergic reaction. This ADA plan is in place because the severity of her allergies is debilitating. It is a disability. She reacts violently not just to consumption of tree nuts, but has a long history of reactivity to proteins left behind on surfaces and particles in the air. 

Over the last couple of weeks something within the classroom has changed. We can’t pinpoint exactly what is going on, but my suspicion is that one of the students got some new hand lotion and has been touching things. Dorothy has been to the nurse 6 times for hives that start on her right arm. The hives obviously itch, and travel quickly. Within minutes they cover her upper body. She is given Benadryl, and once they subside she is sent back to class. The problem here is that the Benadryl is a Bandaid. It is reactive to a problem that she isn’t supposed to have to actively worry about at school. Her teachers continue teaching, she misses class work, misses material that she is responsible for, and then returns to class sleepy. This can’t continue. 

She has been moved to the front right of the room, she no longer shares supplies (we need to add this to her 504 for 6th grade, though why 5th graders are still sharing is beyond me), and has been given her own white board. The custodian is being reeducated on how to clean her desk. The white board is a bit of a problem because she can’t leave it in her shared locker, she is concerned that her locker mate will touch it. Now that I’ve written this out, I’m going to call and ask that she not have a shared locker, and also ask to modify her 504 to include the supplies and locker now. The students are all being reeducated along with the teachers on how to prevent allergic reactions, and mandatory handwashing upon classroom entry has been enacted. Dot is concerned that the other kids will resent her for the changes. She doesn’t want to be different. We are working on this. Right now, her safety is number 1, but I have to address the mental aspects as well. I don’t want this for her.

Every time we deal with the big Pink Elephant in the room I have a little cry, and then I put my brave mom face back on and deal with it head on. Right now I’m still having my little cry. I know that we all send our kids out the door everyday and hope they will return, freak things happen all the time though. The problem with my girl is that the “freak thing” could be a simple as a kid having honey nut cheerios for breakfast, or a granola bar, or having washed their hair with Tres’eme shampoo and then hugging her. At the end of the day though, I have to assure myself that I’ve done every.single.thing I can to keep her safe, if something breaks down and fails I though, I will have to deal with that too. I try not to go there very often, but when I let my guard down, when I stop being vigilant…ugh. I’m done with this train for now.

Anyway, education about food allergies is ongoing. I wish there was another name for the type of allergies we deal with, something that everyone would “get”. But there isn’t.

I’m emotional about this today. I’m looking for a presentation/video that can be shown to 5th graders to help them understand.

Here we go again, Halloween Party

I’m frustrated today. This is the first party that either the teacher or I haven’t planned. I sent an email to the lady planning it two weeks ago reminding her that the party needed to be TREE NUT free, along with a list of over 200 acceptable snacks. She responded to me letting me know that she was, “well aware of Dorothy’s allergies.” Well, geez, lady. I’m glad you are AWARE of her allergies, but this didn’t answer my question, nor did it give me a warm and fuzzy vibe. Dorothy’s classroom is supposed to be tree nut free. She is supposed to feel safe in her classroom, this is why we have a 504 plan.

I get this email today:

Tara:

I am getting ready to get stuff for the Treat Bags and need some idea’s to make one for Dorothy. Could you please give me some ideas. Also, we will be having donuts from IGA. I know she can not eat these but when we had the Grandparents Breakfast I had gotten her the Hostess Muffins (Minis) is that still OK and which kind does she like best?

Thanks!

My response:

Is there a possiblity that her bag and snacks could not be different? The classroom is supposed to be the one *safe* place for her in the building that doesn’t contain any nuts, her 504 plan even limits what kind of lotion her teacher can use. Paul’s Doughnuts, down off of Elm near New Town, is tree nut free and is a safe doughnut for her to eat, in fact, I will volunteer right now to provide all of the doughnuts 🙂 As for the treat bags, safe snacks are mini hershey bars, nerds, sprees, skittles, whoppers, fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, Hostess snacks (Ding Dongs, HoHo’s, Twinkies, unfortunately now all the mini muffins are no longer tree nut free), twizzlers, and smarties. For the bags for everyone, I have jelly bracelets, spiders and pencils…lmk if you want me to just send those in the day of or what. Did you want me to plan a game or two?

Thanks!

…and I’m not surprised, here is the response:

Game is taken care of. The kids were getting candy and I just wanted to make sure that I had Dorothy covered. Mrs. Gxxxx has sent in treat bags and pencils, if you would like to send in the bracelets that would be great. If you want to take care of the donuts that is fine also. I was not going to use the party money, just saving it for the Christmas party or Valentines Day party so if you need to be paid back let me know.

Okay, so apparently the candy is unsafe for Dorothy. Apparently the PLANNER lady failed to tell people about the need for the food to be tree nut free, and really doesn’t give a shit if she takes tree nuts into the classroom, but she wants Dorothy to be, “taken care of.” Well, taken care of means INCLUDING her in the damn party, INCLUDING her in the snack. It does not mean giving her something special. There is absolutely no reason that this should be an issue – none.

I just sent an email to the teacher asking how she plans to handle this, and an email to the planner lady asking if she will be asking for specific foods to be sent in from the list I provided. I know Dorothy will encounter nuts (the human variety – like this woman, and the kind from trees) but she is in 2nd grade, at this point I don’t think she is prepared emotionally for being singled out during a party. She already wants to stay home due to a certain amount of anxiety about nut-encounters, singling her out during a party will only succeed in exacerbating her anxiety.

Oh…and why didn’t I volunteer to plan this party? Well, I despise most of the women on the PTO, so I don’t go to the meetings, and the lady planning this party was the president last year, so she just automatically signed herself up.