Special needs of all sorts and the school year

I had a great time at the Phila area meetup yesterday. What an interesting, thoughtful, funny, snarky bunch of people.

One theme that came up a lot was that parents seem to be dealing with all kinds of issues with their kids and a variety of special needs, and things seem to be extra amped up now that school's in session.

Food allergies. ADHD. IEPs. Therapy. Learning disabilities. Movement issues. Autism/Asperger's. All kinds of stuff. I just think about these parents standing at the bottom of the cliff, looking up, knowing they're going to have to do such an incredible haul to get up to the top to make sure their kids are OK. It's exhausting just thinking about it.

And if you're thinking, "This doesn't affect me," well, it might, and you just aren't aware of it. I found out last week that the "nut-free and dairy-free classroom" notice for my son's class didn't just mean that one of the kids, A., wasn't allowed to ingest dairy. It means that if A. touches dairy or touches a kid who's touched dairy and hasn't washed hands in between, he puffs up like a big red itchy wheezing balloon. It would have been nice to know how serious it was, so that I'd avoid all dairy things in my son's lunch. I'd been putting cheese inside his sandwich on the logic that my son knew not to give bites to other kids in the lunchroom (bonus of my short-lived gluten intolerance–my son accepts food issues). But once I told my son about the other kid's allergy *he* said, "Oh, so I shouldn't bring cheese in my sandwich anymore in case I accidentally touch A. after I eat it!" Woulda been nice to know–for us *and* for A. and his mom–three weeks ago…

So, anyway, until I get the message boards up and running, could those of you who've been there (enu, hedra, etc.) provide some emotional support for the parents who are in the middle of a long process of advocating for their kids? Also, is there anywhere online a printable list of commercial snacks that comply to food allergy specifications? (Like a list of snacks that are GF, one that's dairy-free, one that's soy-free, etc.)

141 thoughts on “Special needs of all sorts and the school year”

  1. Even if you don’t have a special needs child, you child is healthy and developing on schedule… that can turn on a dime. A blood test comes back all wrong, or a car accident, or just some freakish random occurance or infection, and you could be in the thick of it. Or your friend could.For those going through it, I’d say the best advice I could have gotten and didn’t was to get things “formalized” with the schools ASAP. We just kept muddling through, making everying our problem and nothing the school’s and trying to be independant. It was doomed for failure; school rules and regs are set up for normal, healthy children – things like absenteeism and administration of drugs are set up for kids who get the occaisional strep throat or tummy ache, not the child on handfuls of meds who may be out for many days on end, or “in” but “out” mentally because she feels so punk.
    So get expert advice (both medical and legal) and get it as soon as your child has a major diagnosis. And they will help you get a plan in place (IEP or 504.)
    Aside from that? Make sure you manage to have some semblance of a life, even if your child is chronically ill or disabled. We didn’t do so well on that account!
    Also, depending on the nature of the illness/disability, start preparing your child for independance; managing their own meds when they can, learning how to refill prescriptions and schedule doctor’s appointments, and even call insurance companies if necessary. These will be as important to her as knowing how to tie her shoes or cook.
    And also, don’t forget to enjoy your child and find joy in life when you can. Best wishes to all going through this stuff!

  2. I have immense respect and sympathy for parents who have special needs children, but I also have a beef with “normal” children (by that I mean children who do not have any diagnosed special needs) and their parents bending over backwards to accomodate every allergy, problem, sensitivity etc. My daughter went to a preschool where 5 out of her 13 classmates had special needs. 3 were autistic, 1 had a genetic disorder that stumpted his cognitive and physical growth and the other, well, we don’t know, it was a host of problems. I am glad my child went to school with a diverse group of kids and learned not to sing or bang too loudly around the autistic/SID kids, to speak clearly and face him when addressing the genetic disorder kid who had hearing problems and lip read, but the 5th kid, who had a host of allergies, well, that’s when I had to throw in the towel and go, “What the FUCK!” The school did not provide lunches, only snacks, and there was no heating facility, only a mini fridge. First came the nut allergy, OK, so no peanut butter sandwiches, no walnuts as snack, no cookies with nuts etc. Then came the diary allergy similar to the one you mentioned, so no yogurt, no cheese sticks, no cheese sandwiches. WTF! What are we supposed to feed those kids? I am sorry but if your kid is about to keel over at the sight of entire food groups that sustain and nourish their classmates, it’s time you consider putting your kid on a daily anti-allergen, or seeking special needs/alternative arrangements for them. My child has asthma, and I just put her on zyrtec on a daily basis so the class hamster and guinea pigs could stay. I had a relatively easy solution, but I could have stomped my feet, cried, “allergy” so that the animals would be removed instead of medicating my kid. When my husband went through chemo, his oncologist gave me a whole sheet of instructions to give to the preschool teacher so that the spread of childhood diseases could be minimized and my husband would not pick up anything from my daughter. I looked at the list, thought about how inconvenient for 3 teachers and 16 little people to adhere to it so instead of imposing my will and concerns on 16 other people, and their families, I pulled my daughter out of school on days her dad’s counts were low. Washed her hands and arms and face with soap in the utility room before she entered the house and stripped her clothes. My husband is sick, it is our problem, and as much as I would like everyone in the world to help us and accomodate us, it’s not possible or practical. And you know what, dying from a bacteria while taking in chemo beats having hives, so I could have really stomped my feet about this.

  3. My son is autistic and we vacillate between two paths with the schools – easygoing and casual, or taping the IEP meetings and sending copies to the board …We’ve found overall that it is hugely useful to get outside evaluations, then bring those to the school, and if the school wants to do more or different evals, that’s ok too. The more, the better. That ends up persuading skeptical folks in the school that we do need the aide, we do need the extra time, TLC, what have you. Otherwise you get a lot of lectures about tough-love approaches.
    And again to echo Enu, find the joy you can in your child and if possible, echo that in the school environment so the main folks around your child can see the positive elements too.
    I volunteer in my son’s class once a week, which is hard and costs us money (babysitting for younger sib), takes freelance time out of my pocket, but I find the teacher might just be that much more tolerant of my son or more encouraging because I’m around and because I’m helping her in other ways. All-around positivity. Then I’m also close at hand when the social worker or the speech path or whoever happens to be walking by. Fosters more information, better communication.
    And last – be easy on yourself for slipping once in a while, for maybe not being a saint in patience and idea generation and solutions for your child and family. Just being there to hug your child can overcome a lot of other goofs. Parents of spectrum kids often feel paralyzed by the sense that we have to do so much before age 5 or the rest of their live is doomed, and we have to do it all, ABA, GFCF, SP, OT, on and on, and at the end of the day, what is best, I think, is to know your child, what his or her energy level is for all that intervention and what he or she needs most. Target intervention instead of shotgunning it. It’s saner for everyone.
    Other parents may have different approaches, but that is how we’ve managed to survive that cliff-climbing that Moxie described – very apt.

  4. Re Lolismom – I totally hear your frustration and have struggled with the what-to-send-to-eat issue myself …Just one clarification – for a lot of these seriously allergic kids, it IS a life and death thing. Anaphylaxis shock kills you in 15 minutes with peanut and shellfish allergies, probably a lot more.
    Just wanted to give you perspective on the diet thing.
    And on behalf of the spectrum kids your child attended with, thank you for modifying behavior and sensitizing your family – if my son hears something that’s too loud, he remembers it forever (literally, can’t forget) and associates it with everything in that moment. So a fire-alarm bell ringing at school leads to years and years of fear associated with going to school, or painting, or eating, or whatever was happening in that moment it rang. He was telling us yesterday about something that scared him that happened when he was almost 2 – it was three years ago, and it happened for less than 15 minutes (seeing a scary scene in Finding Nemo in a waiting room). So it really encourages me to hear of kids who catch on fast and are sympathetic to kids w difficulties with that stuff.

  5. For the food lists, you could try here: http://www.godairyfree.org/Table/Food-to-Eat/They cost a small amount of money, but maybe a classroom could share one or something.
    Of course there are other sites that have similar lists, I just happen to have this one handy from our dairy issues.
    As far as catering to the needs of other kids with allergies, well, I take the stance of “How would I want people to treat my child if it were her?” I imagine how scary it must be to parent a child with a life-threatening allergy, how no one wants their child to feel singled out and resented because someone can’t bring peanut butter, but the alternative is so much worse.
    My SIL is forever ranting about how her child can’t bring peanut butter to her classroom, and she has said things like “Well, that other child should eat lunch in another room alone,” never mind that maybe her kid smears some PB on a desk.
    Never mind that eating lunch alone for an entire school career has got to be a little demoralizing. A food allergy isn’t something that derails learning, and I am happy to comply and be creative in order to not ostracize an otherwise healthy kid. I say this as the parent of a picky eater, so it can certainly be a challenge. She isn’t of school age yet, but I can’t think of a meeting or play group we attend where there isn’t a food allergy. People are careful about snacks. Generally single ingredient foods are the way to go! Think grapes, carrot sticks, air popped popcorn with a little salt, that kind of thing.
    I do think schools should make sure they have adequate facilities for storing food and heating food around allergic kids. If food groups are limited, then yes, why make the practicalities of finding alternatives that much harder.

  6. The accommodation of allergies gets very tangled, very fast. Nut-free is pretty easy. But others –gluten, wheat, dairy– are harder, and become harder still when you try to get something that is actually shelf-stable, minimally processed, and possibly organic, because the small companies that tend to produce, say, organic whole-grain crackers often can’t afford to have a separate plant. My attempts to send moderately healthful snacks to preschool were foiled by the no-shared-facilities rule.Our public elementary school does not require that food from home be nut-free, but people serving food to children know which children have which food allergies. By kindergarten, however, the kids are deemed old enough to know to wash their hands after meals so they don’t get allergens on their classmates.
    Whether people using the playground equipment on weekends are similarly considerate is anyone’s guess.

  7. After our conversation about this yesterday I felt less alone for the first time in a long time. My severe food allergy guy I worry about less than my ADHD/LD guy these days. I read too much about ADHD kids becoming criminals later in life. His behavior is harder to manage and his interventions this year are very time consuming.To the person who mentioned drugs for food allergies. My son cannot take any drug to help the allergies. He has to ingest the food before drugs can be used or he’d be on benadryl all day every day. Unfortunately they do not give any allergy meds to prevent a food allergy reaction. One of the only recourse is full avoidance. Usually after an exposure I have to wait for my son to throw up before giving meds. If I give meds after he eats the food and before he throws up he tends to throw up more and longer duration. This is the hard part of living with a food allergy. Also so many food allergies can become life threatening quickly. Something that becomes hives and swelling one exposure can be anaphlactic next time. I wish I didn’t have to stomp my feet and yell allergy and just give him some meds. REALLY I do.
    Thanks Moxie for your support yesterday. I always like hanging with you. I think it is the Mom with 2 boys thing 😉 My husband cracked up when I told him the relaxation tape story.

  8. Having lost a child I guess I see the whole allergen battle as something I really want to do for the safety of other people’s children.I do think what is needed is a LOT of education and alternatives. It’s not enough to say “don’t send nuts or dairy,” schools and communities have to rally around to provide lists of suppliers, recipes, and ideas for making sure the kids can get fed. And discounts and inexpensive selections.
    At our local school (my son doesn’t attend yet, but I heard about it) there was a child with the drop-dead nut allergy, and it was kind of neat – a local bakery went nut-free and became THE go-to location for snacks and bread, and then started making lunches too that parents could pick up at 8 o’clock. And a handwashing protocol was started in the morning and for kindergarteners at noon.
    Then the local food bank realized it had peanut butter everywhere and developed a whole package for allergic families. And then the local grocery store set up a bit “safe for school” snack display. It was really quite cool.
    With dairy I guess I’d be re-reading the Vegan lunchbox.
    It is hard, for sure.
    But can you imagine if your child was the accidental means of a friend’s death? It’s soooo scary. I think the trick is for schools and parents to really communicate about the real risks – so you don’t ban everything every time, but assess the risk and then come up with a plan and meal ideas based on who is in the school when.
    Because I don’t think it’s that common that you would have every allergy at the non-breathing level every time.
    Lolismom, I just want you to know that if you were in my preschool I would honestly WANT to follow the protocol. I think your choice is wise, but there is also nothing wrong with asking a community for support.

  9. I didnt read all the comments so I apologize if anyone has posted this already. But, this is really cool if you are a Whole Foods shopper – they have “shopping lists” for all sorts of special diets.Heres what you do:
    Go to the Store Locator, find your Store, then click on More Store Info.
    http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/index.html
    You’ll see a list of things on the left side. Toward the bottom is Special Diets.
    Click on the and you’ll see:
    Dairy Free
    Gluten Free
    Low Fat
    Low Sodium
    Soy Foods
    Sugar Concious
    Wheat Free

  10. I would love to see more caution in Italian kindergartens. Once kids are past the one year limit, it is no holes barred. I have fatal nut allergy to walnuts (and buckwheat, which I know is not a nut) and for a long time was obsessed about my child coming into contact with nuts in case he too was allergic(he isn’t fortunately). On his first day at kindergarten ( he was 3) they had walnuts and gorgonzola cheese on the menu and I was waiting for ‘that’ phone-call all day. When I went to pick him up and I asked him about lunch, he told me he didn’t have any of the blue cheese dish and I breathed a sigh of relief.There is only one girl in my kid’s class that is allergic to a number of foods, but the other kids eat those very foods around her and goodness knows how many times she has inadvertently come in conatct with those allergens. I do think admin at schools does not take allergies seriosuly enough here as there are realtively few food allergy sufferers, but this is definitely changing and I imagine they will some time soon, have to pull their socks up.

  11. Something isn’t settling well with me here. And it’s the amount of kids who have special needs these days. I wish the cause of these various problems were top on the priority list of medical professionals and the govt. Sigh. Wishful thinker right? But it’s just so unfair to our kids! Environmental causes, the formula culture, vaxing, whatever else, you name it. Why is this not a higher priority!?!? UGH.

  12. I’m sort of torn on the allergy thing. I believe there have been no verified cases of death from just exposure. A severely allergic child needs to actually ingest the food for it to be life threatening (I think eggs might be the exception since raw eggs can be aerosalized and inhaled). Not that you want to have a severe, but non-life-threatening incident, but simply bringing in a peanut-butter sandwich isn’t going to kill the kid in the next room.Yes, absolutely, if you are bringing in a snack to share, it needs to meet the requirements.
    If you aren’t actually sharing the food, I think the no-shared facilities thing is over-kill. We let my daughter eat what her daycare provides because it is too expensive and time-consuming for everyone to provide her alternatives. But it means she eats a lot of mass-produced, processed food that I don’t want her to eat (Teddy Grahams, Ranch-blasted Goldfish crackers, etc all full of HFCS and hydrogenated oil and a lot of fake meat also full of non-food things). I can bring in fresh fruit, but anything else must be in original packaging and from a nut and peanut-free facility even though there are no nut allergies in her room and no one else would be eating it.

  13. Seeing my sister go through advocating for my 16-year-old niece (Asperger’s, very recently diagnosed after years of therapy/meds), it seems like, as it is with lots of parenting issues, persistance and listening to your gut is key.My niece grew up before there was much known or talked about in terms of the autism spectrum. There was no internet for my sister to consult. I think what’s so wonderful about the internet now is you CAN find your tribe…the group of parents going through the same things you are.
    It’s still challenging of course…my sister has had lots of pushback from the schools. It’s only this year that she’s been able to arrange for special testing circumstances for my niece (alone in another room) which has reduced her panic about exams exponentially.
    On another note, is there evidence that food allergies are more prevalent now? Or is just that we know more about and hear more about them?

  14. (A bit off topic, but…)Can you imagine a US school offering walnuts and gorgonzola? I’m going to laugh about this all afternoon.Paola, do Italian schools ever offer chicken nuggets?

  15. It was awesome to see everyone, and good to know andrea’s kid is as shy as mine!I am at the bottom of the cliff at this point with respect to maybe some kind of language thing and have been scaling the cliff since the nugget was 3 months old, and just today after nebbing him last night, twice in the middle of the night, and this morning I had to run to daycare so I could bring his meds because he couldn’t eat lunch or take a nap because his asthma is so bad… and frankly I’m feeling a little frazzled about it.
    RE food allergies and other accommodations. I don’t have to deal with most of this (except we are avoiding all nuts until he is 3 because of our various atopies and all his cousins are allergic to tree nuts)… but I’m happy to make any accommodation for other kids. I guess it’s kind of the socialist in me, but I do feel we are all responsible, at least in small ways, for the health and well being of other people in our community. That said, I also don’t expect much accommodation from others.
    Good luck to everyone with all your various struggles. I love enu’s point above, also.

  16. I’d also be interested in facts on race. My child goes to a predominantly Black school (we are not Black) and there are no posted restrictions on food. I asked her teacher about restrictions, too. I don’t know how this rise in allergies and spectrum disorders correrlates to race (if at all) or if there are other socio/cultural things at play here.

  17. Agree with Lee – not to minimize very serious topic (we have been fortunate, and have nothing to contribute here) but am LOVING the image of Italian kidlets eating walnuts and gorgonzola. Completely cracks me up.

  18. Nutmeg:”I guess it’s kind of the socialist in me, but I do feel we are all responsible, at least in small ways, for the health and well being of other people in our community.”
    The problem is that certain accommodations for some kids end up hurting others, such as the shared facilities rule or the possibility of banning dairy. If your rules let Nilla Wafers in but keep yogurt out, there’s something wrong, IMO.
    And I say this as a parent of a kid who had a dairy allergy when he was younger. I know that allergies are a real problem. But crappy manufactured foodlike products are a problem, too.
    Also, now I want some Gorgonzola and walnuts.

  19. You know what though, Nutmeg… hes NOT usually shy at all. I think the being indoors thing with all those people freaked him out (err that and it was nap time). Literally as soon as I set foot OUTSIDE the bilding to leave with him there were a bunch of kids running around on the grass and he immediately took off and started running around like his usual maniac self with them, and it took a tug-o-war and him screaming at me to actually get him to let me pick him up and put him in the car because he wanted to play. Oh well, at least him and Eli had “fun” sitting in their cars staring at everyone in silence for a good 20 minutes.Anyway, in regards to “the cliff” – we are staring up at it as well when it comes to feeding/growth issues. We’ve been passed off from doctor to doctor my son’s entire life, with everyone telling us that clearly there is a problem but that THEY are not the one to help, and here, try this other doctor… until now where he’s seriously FTT, and no one REALLY knows why (best guess is reflux, although no reflux treatments have helped and no tests have given us any evidence of reflux), but here we are about to start tube feeding. Even having people being accomodating for THAT (should be easy right, he doesnt eat, how hard IS it to accomodate that) is difficult. ie everyone telling us we just dont feed him the right things, or “oh he eats just fine”, or hey how bout we give him whole milk (he cant handle it), or peanut butter (avoiding nuts until hes 2 at least).
    Anyway, enough whining, it surely could be worse!

  20. @CtMom and others.”Just one clarification – for a lot of these seriously allergic kids, it IS a life and death thing. Anaphylaxis shock kills you in 15 minutes with peanut and shellfish allergies, probably a lot more.”
    Yes, I know. And as I said, I am not at all bothered about some relatively easy to implement restrictions. Yes, a lot of kids like PB&Jelly, but there are lots of alternatives, dairy being one of them. Well, shellfish, it’s not like the preschool serves lobsters on a regular basis. And has anyone heard of an epipen? I supply the PK class with a nebulizer for my child’s asthma, why can’t some of these kids carry epipens?
    But if you come to me and say, as it did happen in my child’s classroom,
    ” No loud noises, X is noise sensitive” (Yeah good luck with that one in a preschool),
    ” No hugging, physical contact (however unintentional) because Y has SID and it causes a meltdown”
    “No nuts, No dairy, No sunscreen lotion even with a hint of fragrance because Z is allergic to all, severely”, then you cannot be surprised if I tell you to go find new accommodations. (Which of course I never did aloud).
    So we have a preshool where kids are not allowed to make noise, not move in the event of accidentally brushing up against Y, and virtually no protein and no sun protection because Z is allergic. Give me a bloody break. Then Z’s parents should compile and hand out snack/lunch lists and should buy everyone a $9 a bottle fragrance free organic sunscreen from Whole Foods.
    I don’t mean to sound like a harsh, heartless prick. But when your child, any child, suffers from multiple problems, so much so that their ability to be involved in a mainstream classroom is going to come at the expense of every other child, then I think the parents and the educators should reevaluate their choices (and obviously that includes me as well.) Because at the end, X, Y and Z did not get the mainstream education. None of the other children wanted to play with X or Y because they reacted so severely to any noise or accidental bumping. And Z, well, the preschool teachers could not 100% control what was in the lunches (yes, not obvious cheese in the sandwich, but was it made on the same counter of a cheese eating sibling?), so they did seat and feed Z separately. How does that help these children?

  21. My son is 13 months and has severe food allergies (wheat, peanut, dairy, egg). I hope and pray he is lucky and grows out of some of them, but there are no guarantees.No one wants to be “that parent,” but you have to advocate for your child, especially when it can cause a severe, possibly life-threatening reaction. My worst fear is sending him to school with these allergies and not being able to control everything and hoping for the best. It kills me to think of other parents feeling anger toward an allergic child and the inconvenience it causes them. They certainly didn’t ask for it; it’s just the way life is for them.
    I just hope that if my son does go to school with all of these allergies, that other parents will try to put themselves in our shoes and have sympathy and do what they can to keep him safe with the food they send in. I always hate to rely on others to be accommodating to our own needs, but in this case, there really is no other viable alternative that doesn’t alienate or demoralize a young child.

  22. @meggiemoo- at least one study (read the bbc’s account of it here:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7218276.stm) indicates that the incidence of food allergies is not increasing, but that parent’s often label something an allergy that is more likely an intolerance (allergy = immune system involved, potential to cascade to a life-threatening systemic reaction, intolerance = a lot fuzzier). Other studies indicate that allergies ARE increasing (sorry, no time to go find those), but the reason remains unclear. There are lots of interesting theories, but nothing I personally would want the public health authorities to act on yet.My personal opinion on the autism thing is that there are a lot of kids on the higher functioning ends of the spectrum that would have just been considered “odd” when I was a kid. And that I now work with a lot of those kids, because science is an excellent place for people the rest of society considers a little odd… we don’t expect “normal” social skills from our scientists! In all seriousness, I have worked with at least one guy who had been diagnosed with Asperger’s, and have worked with many, many more about whom I’ve wondered. (BTW, they all have built successful careers, and the guy with Asperger’s had a long term girlfriend and seemed pretty happy with his life- I like to remember that whenever I start stressing about autism.) Of course, since autism has not touched me directly, I have only read some of the studies and not done any exhaustive research.
    Is it better that the kids get the labels? I don’t know. Maybe yes, because it helps the parents figure out how to work with their kid. However, I believe that we should be sure we are seeing an actual increase in issues and not just an increase in giving names to the issues before we start taking any drastic actions on the public health level. I think a lot of this is just the luck of the draw with your genetic makeup. The human body is a very complex thing. When you think about it, it is sort of amazing that any of us develop “normally”.

  23. My little girl is allergic to paprika, of all things. I can’t tell you how hard it was to figure that out. Anyway, it’s not a serious allergy like some, but if she eats some she gets painful eczema and diaper rash. The problem is it’s in all kinds of (pre-packaged) things and not always listed (sometimes just under “spices”); it’s also used a lot for coloring.Anyway, she’s only two, but she does go to an in-home daycare part-time, so I had to be very clear about this with the woman who runs it. Fortunately, she’s a vegan Buddhist with food intolerances, so she gets it and watches labels like crazy. But then people bring out the Goldfish crackers at playgroups, etc., and I have to keep my girl away from them.
    I do not want other people not to eat it; it’s my role in this case to keep her away from it, since she’s with me and she’s so little. But even with this relatively minor food issue it can be stressful (and very limiting in terms of restaurants) and I feel like I’m being a little intrusive when I have to keep my kid from the food and bring something else and explain explain. It must be so much worse when the allergy/sensitivity/etc. is more severe. People get very sensitive about food, especially when it’s something they’ve prepared and want to share. When I host playgroups, I try to offer whole food options (like fruit) so most people can partake, though I don’t know of any kids with food issues (in the under-three crowd I run in).

  24. What bothers me about the dietary restrictions is cost as well as the rigidity.Not all parents can afford to buy things at Whole Paycheck, er, Whole Foods and expecting an already strapped public school to have refrigeration/heating facilities for kids’ lunches is unreasonable.
    I do agree that teaching appropriate sanitation is important; hand washing before and after eating, wiping down desks/snack tables, eating only at designated areas and times, etc. However, expecting parents to spend double the prep time(including special trips to the “right” store) and money to accomodate children is becoming excessive.
    If the family really is looking at a “life or death” scenario, perhaps it is best that the child eats separately from the rest of the group or go home for lunch. I know it’s hard, but turning a classroom on its head for one child is difficult as well. Teachers and schools have enough of a burden that worrying over every organic-nut-free-range dietary requirement can reduce their jobs to babysitter, not a highly qualified teacher.

  25. What bothers me about the dietary restrictions is cost as well as the rigidity.Not all parents can afford to buy things at Whole Paycheck, er, Whole Foods and expecting an already strapped public school to have refrigeration/heating facilities for kids’ lunches is unreasonable.
    I do agree that teaching appropriate sanitation is important; hand washing before and after eating, wiping down desks/snack tables, eating only at designated areas and times, etc. However, expecting parents to spend double the prep time(including special trips to the “right” store) and money to accomodate children is becoming excessive.
    If the family really is looking at a “life or death” scenario, perhaps it is best that the child eats separately from the rest of the group or go home for lunch. I know it’s hard, but turning a classroom on its head for one child is difficult as well. Teachers and schools have enough of a burden that worrying over every organic-nut-free-range dietary requirement can reduce their jobs to babysitter, not a highly qualified teacher.

  26. What bothers me about the dietary restrictions is cost as well as the rigidity.Not all parents can afford to buy things at Whole Paycheck, er, Whole Foods and expecting an already strapped public school to have refrigeration/heating facilities for kids’ lunches is unreasonable.
    I do agree that teaching appropriate sanitation is important; hand washing before and after eating, wiping down desks/snack tables, eating only at designated areas and times, etc. However, expecting parents to spend double the prep time(including special trips to the “right” store) and money to accomodate children is becoming excessive.
    If the family really is looking at a “life or death” scenario, perhaps it is best that the child eats separately from the rest of the group or go home for lunch. I know it’s hard, but turning a classroom on its head for one child is difficult as well. Teachers and schools have enough of a burden that worrying over every organic-nut-free-range dietary requirement can reduce their jobs to babysitter, not a highly qualified teacher.

  27. I have two special needs kids. One has a slew of issues that have resulted in more labels than I can count, and one (my easy kid!) has multiple food allergies of varying degrees of severity.Up to a point, I sympathize that people can find it hard to work around other children’s allergies. My younger son right now can safely eat four foods plus elemental formula. Finding safe food for him as his allergy list became longer and longer was hard. But we did it. We had no choice. As it so happens, my kid’s preschool is nut-free, and not free of any of his other allergens. However, the majority of his allergic reactions are not potentially anaphylactic, potentially life-threatening (IgE-mediated) reactions. We came up with safety precautions that were a reasonable compromise between his safety and others’ convenience. Try and have faith that if you are asked to avoid bringing in a given food, it isn’t to save another child from the horror of a daily pill; it’s generally to keep them from a serious reaction. My son has taken a daily antihistamine since he was five months old. It didn’t stop him from going into anaphylaxis when he was a year old after exposure to one of his allergens.
    @lolismom, for those kids who are so allergic that contact with an allergen can cause a reaction, there is no pill. Daily antihistamines will not prevent a serious reaction. Good lord, don’t you think any parent would rather give their kid a pill rather than feel the stomach drop every time the phone rings and caller ID says it’s school or daycare, the fear that this time it’s because your kid is on route to the hospital after having an epi-pen? If your child is in a class with a child with a life-threatening allergy which means he or she is unsafe if others around him or her eat that food, I understand that you can be baffled as to what to send.
    I have run out of patience for that, though. That allergic kid manages to find food to eat every day all day without starving; so can yours for six or eight hours. The right of children with food allergies not to risk death trumps another kid’s right to his or her favorite food or food group. My kid has four safe foods; nonetheless, if one of his classmates were life-threateningly allergic to one of those foods and could not be kept safe through handwashing, I’d stop sending it with my kid. If I’m willing for my son to go without one -fourth of his food options to keep another child from the hospital, then I don’t get why it’s too hard for parents who have a world of food choices available to give up a few foods out of hundreds.
    Ask for help. You may well find that it’s far more manageable than you think. What keeps an particular allergic child safe will vary dramatically depending on his or her allergens, whether or not they react to contact, whether or not the kids eat in the classroom, whether or not the classroom is set up for thorough hand-washing, whether or not the kids are young enough still to put toys in their mouths, and so on. Some allergic kids can touch their allergen; some can’t. Some can’t even be in the room with it when it’s cooking; if you can smell something, tiny portion of it are in your nose, and for some kids, that’s too much. Some react to trace amounts; some don’t. Ask and find out.
    I keep re-reading this post and thinking: I need to sound nicer; I need to be more sympathetic. But I think I’m out of sympathy right now. I’m dealing with my own stress, knowing that when we get to public school, there will be parents at home grousing that the class can’t do the egg-related science experiment because my whiny little kid might die if he’s exposed to raw egg. When that happens, I want to know where and what these special alternative arrangements are that I am supposed to find for my kid. If it’s shutting my kid out of public school, that’s illegal. If it’s for preschool or daycare, am I supposed to stay home and give up my job which provides all our health insurance? Where exactly is my kid supposed to go? Or should I have psychically known that he’d be allergic before having him and not had him?My own kid isn’t contact-allergic, but many of the children of the friends I’ve made through my child’s allergies are terrifyingly allergic. It is do-able. It may not be easy. It may add to the already considerable stresses you have when you have to figure out a whole new skill set packing your kid’s lunch. It may be anxiety-provoking because you truly are afraid of hurting another kid.
    Then, again, ask for help. Don’t take it on on the kid. Don’t take it out in anger on the family that is already dealing with that type of food restriction round the clock. This is your chance to demonstrate to your child that we can show caring and concern for others; we can make sacrifices when it matters. Even when those sacrifices are as small as peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches or a slice of cheese, they can save a kid’s life. I know it’s hard; truly I do. When my son first starting reacting, we had to clear the house of eggs, dairy, nuts, sesame, and seafood… and I was a vegetarian. But you can learn; parents of food-allergic kids are not somehow magically gifted at avoiding common foods and finding alternative; we learned, and we are almost all willing, even eager, to teach others.
    Moxie, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your and your son’s willingness to give up a food during the school day to keep another child safe. Please check to find out exactly how necessary that precaution is. Will good hand-washing work instead? Also, it sounds too as if “wet” dairy might be far more dangerous to this other child (more prone to spills etc). If so, Silk makes a very tasty soy yogurt.

  28. I understand that it could hurt some people and certainly replacing healthy though allergenic foods with crappy food replacement substances isn’t great, and certainly isn’t the only thing that COULD be done… but if the other option is that parents of those kids don’t send their kid to school, is that really an option? If the allergy is so severe that they could die if they encountered the allergen somewhere? I guess the people with similar allergies could get combined so they don’t interfere with the convenient nutrition of the other kids. I just don’t see a realistic option other than excluding serious allergens that otherwise threaten children with serious morbidity or mortality. The criteria for exclusion and the seriousness of the reaction that qualifies for exclusion would have to be up for debate, but I think it’s unrealistic to ask parents of seriously allergic kids to keep them out of school.It could be an opportunity to learn about other foods and civic responsibility (like Shandra’s example).

  29. With health issues, definitely dialogue with your school/teacher. My stepson had a liver transplant as a toddler (he’s 9 now) to treat a rare metabolic disorder and last summer he spent 6 weeks in the local Children’s hospital due to a rejection episode and several other transplant complications. He was finally released from the hospital 2 weeks before school. We were frank with his school administration and teachers about his level of endurance, weight loss, etc. The school could not have been more cooperative; they allowed him to go to the nurse’s office and take a nap when he felt tired, allowed him to eat extra snacks, were extremely viligant about checking his temp if he seemed off, etc.On the other hand, a couple of years ago an autistic child was placed in his class and all of the sudden my stepson didn’t get support from an aide in reading/math (he had/has an IEP) because he was quiet as he tends to withdraw when he is confused/overwhelmed as opposed to the other child who tantrumed and acted out. I completely understand limited resources for special ed services but still that was not ok. Why should my child not have the support that he needs because he was quietly floundering? It took a quite a bit of dialogue with the school to get that straightened out and the next year there was a change in the special ed director which was probably for the best.
    Food allergies are tough. I am lucky in that neither of my kids are picky eaters so sending snacks/lunches isn’t really an issue. My stepson has a pretty severe allergic reaction to fish but luckily, he is old enough to simply avoid it and is only affected by ingestion. I do find it sad that one can no longer send in wholesome homemade snacks due to cross-contamination issues but I guess it is what it is.
    It can indeed be exhausting dealing with a special needs child. For a couple of years, we took my stepson to 3 therapy sessions a week (occupational, speech, physical) in addition to monthly labwork and semi-annual liver transplant clinic appointments. And it takes longer to do his current 3rd grade homework assignments than the average kid. But we do the very best we can to make sure that he gets the very best of out of school/life given his special needs.

  30. “I looked at the list, thought about how inconvenient for 3 teachers and 16 little people to adhere to it so instead of imposing my will and concerns on 16 other people, and their families, I pulled my daughter out of school on days her dad’s counts were low. Washed her hands and arms and face with soap in the utility room before she entered the house and stripped her clothes. My husband is sick, it is our problem, and as much as I would like everyone in the world to help us and accomodate us, it’s not possible or practical. And you know what, dying from a bacteria while taking in chemo beats having hives, so I could have really stomped my feet about this. “I am very very sorry you had to deal with this. Had your child been in my son’s school or daycare, I would have done everything I could think of to accommodate your husband’s oncologist’s list. I would hope that your child’s school would have as well. I understand that you were unlikely to be able to count solely on that; you can’t let something so important go as a given. I think your safety precautions made sense–but I wish you’d felt you could trust your community to balance your family’s critical health needs against their own convenience and come up with the more caring answer.

  31. “I looked at the list, thought about how inconvenient for 3 teachers and 16 little people to adhere to it so instead of imposing my will and concerns on 16 other people, and their families, I pulled my daughter out of school on days her dad’s counts were low. Washed her hands and arms and face with soap in the utility room before she entered the house and stripped her clothes. My husband is sick, it is our problem, and as much as I would like everyone in the world to help us and accomodate us, it’s not possible or practical. And you know what, dying from a bacteria while taking in chemo beats having hives, so I could have really stomped my feet about this. “I am very very sorry you had to deal with this. Had your child been in my son’s school or daycare, I would have done everything I could think of to accommodate your husband’s oncologist’s list. I would hope that your child’s school would have as well. I understand that you were unlikely to be able to count solely on that; you can’t let something so important go as a given. I think your safety precautions made sense–but I wish you’d felt you could trust your community to balance your family’s critical health needs against their own convenience and come up with the more caring answer.

  32. As a parent of a dairy/egg/sesame/who-knows-what-else allergy toddler, I am already having anxiety about sending him to pre-school where I won’t be able to watch what goes into his mouth. The fact that centers have these very sensitive and specific rules about what foods are allowed makes me rest easier at night. I know, you’re probably thinking that you hope my kid doesn’t end up at your school! I really wish this wasn’t a life-threatening problem, but it is scary when your child breaks out all over in hives and is hysterical scratching and crying just from contact exposure. Unfortunately, only having restrictions on shared food items isn’t adequate because, well, kids spill milk (as happened to us recently at a kids event). Why why why are there so many more allergic kids these days?

  33. @Brooke,I don’t have any stats, but I remember reading an article once in an Australian newspapar talking about the rise in food allergies.They gave a very sad account of a little 5 year old allergic to nuts who had an anaphylactic reaction and then died after holding his grandfather’s hand ( grandad had been eating walnuts). This of course is very very rare, but I certainly would not want to test it out on one of my kid’s classmates.

  34. I have a kid with an (unknown) allergy. He suffered anaphylactic shock, twice. Ironically, both times we were in the US, he’s never had it here in Switzerland. We suspect it’s either an additive they have there and not here or possibly peanuts. We just make sure we have his kit with us and we warned the school and provided them with a kit too.Just for comparison my son is only kid in his primary school with a food allergy. They seem to be less common here, in my experience.
    My son also has cerebral palsy, it affects his legs mostly. Advocating for him here, is a full time job and we’ve fired numerous doctors, physiotherapists, you name it. It is so hard, especially when you live somewhere that is SO behind.
    Oh and the kids gorgonzola and walnut eating kindergartners… the kids here make tea and have had fondue for snack time. Crazeee, but hey different strokes. 😉 A parent got reamed for sending a banana as a snack – too high in sugar. Um, yeah. Too far.

  35. Sorry for the double post above.And yes, I’ve heard of epi-pens. We go nowhere without them.
    As to contact, one of the difficulties is that once a food protein is around, for severely allergic kids (much more allergic than my son), they can get it on their fingers and accidentally touch their eyes or mouth, and then it’s in their system. So while some of those kids aren’t going to react severely to it being in the air or near them, the presence of the allergen may put them at risk from moving that food protein into their eyes or mouth. Nuts and seafood can be especially dangerous for this, as it can take very very very small amounts to cause a reaction in a severely allergic child.

  36. Not having a food-allergic child (as far as I know) and not having sent him to daycare/preschool yet, I don’t know a lot about this issue, but I do have a question. We’ve been focusing on school or school-type environments in this discussion, where even if people grumble everybody knows the rules, knows who’s allergic, and likely complies. What about the rest of the world that kids encounter? I’m not even talking about where else kids eat, but things like going to the science museum or the park or visiting Mom’s office? People eat all over the place and leave food residue around and touch things that kids touch. Can this be managed? Should this be managed? What do you do?

  37. Kate’s give-you-some-ideas list of safe foods free of the top-8-allergens (and also free of sesame) that my five-year-old will eat with joy, not just because they’re safer for other allergic kids:* apples
    * bananas
    * oranges
    * grapes
    * grapefruit
    * raisins
    * dried cranberries
    * broccoli
    * peas (can blanch ahead of time and pack cold; my kid will eat them as finger food)
    * tomatoes
    * cucumbers
    * carrots
    * pickles
    * celery (can fill with the sunflower seed butter listed below and top with raisins)
    * cold cuts rolled up or cut into shapes
    Peanut butter alternatives ((make sure you tell school ahead of time, as they look like peanut butter and teachers may not believe child that these are not peanut butter without warning):
    * sunflower seed butter: make sure to get a sunflower seed butter with added sugar as those without are too bitter
    * soy butter; Walmart carries a very affordable brand.
    Dairy alternatives:
    * Silk soy yogurt (the best of the soy yogurts, hand down)
    * Tofutti cutie “ice cream”-style sandwiches and Marry Me Bars: good enough for almost any kid to ask for more, whether or not they usually eat dairy
    * all-fruit no-dairy popsicles; Edy’s makes some and you can make your own by freezing most juices or freezing applesauce
    Processed food alternatives (some of which are pricier):
    * anything by Enjoy Life brands, including their Snickerdoodles cookies
    * Cereal: Puffins, Gorilla Munch, Erewhon rice cereal
    My younger son used to be able to eat Oreos (which are dairy and egg free, surprisingly, though they do include wheat).
    If you need to avoid mayonnaise because of a very-egg-allergic kid, Vegannaise and Nayonnaise both make egg-free versions.

  38. I guess I am in the group of folks that think -while it is very scary to deal with children with life-threatening allergies and other health issues and I am very sympathetic- I think those parents sometimes expect too much from the other parents and the schools. While I’m willing and happy to make some accommodations, I draw the line at having to go to specific (and expensive) stores to get special foods. I’m sorry but in my view the family’s needs with the special child do NOT trump all else. If that’s how you feel, perhaps alternative arrangements need to be made for your child.I’m sorry, I know it sounds that I’m not sympathetic. I am. But, man, my own life and stresses, etc., etc., . . . I just can’t do what some of the parents on here expect. I just don’t have enough of me to go around. And, while it may seem like small concessions to you. For us (with no help and no family in the area), it is not small.
    Flame away.

  39. “People eat all over the place and leave food residue around and touch things that kids touch. Can this be managed? Should this be managed? What do you do?”You take epis with you everywhere, you leave the park if you see a kid with peanut-butter-y hands climbing on the playground equipment, you watch your child continuously, and you pray a lot. Maybe you avoid too-risky situations for your kid; for example, we don’t take my kid to the outdoor stand that sells fried seafood where the benches are likely to be covered in seafood protein.
    And I count myself as blessed that the teachers and parents at my son’s preschool work to keep that a comparatively safe space for him.

  40. CG–my daughter has broken out in hives from sitting in a shopping cart after a child ate something dairy in the seat. It wasn’t fun.we’ve only had one anaphylactic (sp?) event–she ate my yogurt (this is how we found out she was allergic to milk). It wasn’t fun and I don’t wish it on anyone.
    I dread getting a peanut allergic kid in her class b/c at school meat is almost always paired with cheese so she takes a pb/honey sandwich on those days. It happens, we’ll deal with it. Luckily dd’s allergy is mostly contact unless she eats it and she’s VERY aware of what she can and cannot eat (and how she needs to ask if she doesn’t recognize the food).
    re: increasing allergies. For the firstl 10 years or so the daycare center DD goes to was operating they only had 1 food allergy kid at a time. Last year when daughter began, there were suddenly 12 new kids with milk allergies (plus the milk and eggs girl, a nut allergy, etc). It seems like daycare centers are really only beginning to deal with food allergies on this new scale (at least down here). The parents and the administration / teachers / cook had to come up with a protocol to organize and keep track of everything.

  41. I find the sociological issue with food allergies kind of fascinating. My daughter has attended two majority-minority, Title 1 (majority low income) schools, each of which has 300-400 kids, so would reasonably have up to 10 kids with peanut allergies alone, given national rates. At neither have I ever heard anything about food allergy policies, sending food in for the class policies, etc. Not a peep.

  42. I don’t think of Walmart as a special store. You can buy fruit, vegetables, raisins, and Oreos at any supermarket. Oreos are even available at convenience stores.I don’t get how it’s asking so much. Truly, my son’s classmates give up foods with nuts listed as an ingredient. How hard is that? They wash their hands after eating–which is a good precaution anyways. Is that unreasonable?
    As to giving up dairy, I’m sorry it’s hard. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask if the kid in your kid’s class is likely to end up in the hospital to preserve your kid’s cheese sandwich.

  43. @flea, I’m curious about that too. My perception (not based on any real data) is that this is primarily an upper-middle-class phenomenon. (Maybe I think this because, eh, most of the people I know fit into that category). Is it that lower income kids don’t have the same prevalence of allergies, or that their parents aren’t out there advocating for them? Or neither? Does anyone know of any studies on this?

  44. I seriously, honestly believe that all cases of death which were originally thought to be due to accidental contact were later shown (without all the media fanfare of course) to be ingestion issues.My biggest issues with food allergies are that non-affected families are encouraged to over-react, sometimes to their detriment (see only processed food/really expensive alternatives). If there is an *actual* child with an *actual* allergy who needs special accomodation, it makes sense that schools tell parents that and explain what needs to be done. But blanket no fill-in-the-blank rules are dumb. Because they don’t address actual needs so are unduly burdensome and are more likely to be ignored.
    There is a girl in my daughter’s class who is allergic to peanuts and has an Epi-pen. So I make sure we don’t have peanut-y food before school, even though we wash hands when we get in. But I’m not really that worried about things which may have touched nuts, since no one in her unit is allergic to nuts. Does that make sense?
    I think most parents really are willing to make reasonable accomadations when they are informed what they are and why those rules are in place. But someone might be allergic to one of these things, so you can’t bring them in for your own child doesn’t fall into that category for me.

  45. We found out recently that Chik Fil-A nuggets are cooked in peanut oil (who knew?) so they are big no-nos to bring to school. Makes me wonder what else is cooked in peanut oil that could be causing seriously threatening situations for allergic kids.

  46. @lolismom,… wait, no, I will have to come back and comment tomorrow. Right now, I’m just so stunned by your suggestion that an epipen is the answer (um, they probably DO have one there… do you have any idea what you’re talking about? Because it sure sounds like NO.).Just. Wow.
    Okay. I have to go, but one small thought. It isn’t a cliff if you’re looking at it right. It’s not smooth going, but it’s still straight ahead. Tilt the view, and it’s just a long rough walk. One step after the other.

  47. I want to share a true story from one of my clients. It’s amazing and may help some of you, who knows. Instead of writing my version of her words I’m including what she wrote to me. I know this family well, and this is remarkable. Again, this story doesn’t apply to all situations, may not apply to any one reading here, but it might, so it’s worth sharing.She has asked me to spread the word and use this story as often as I can to inform parents.
    Her story.
    “If your kid has allergies, asthma, doesn’t sleep well and you can hear them breathing, check their adenoids and get them out ASAP! In just 4 short weeks, (after having his adenoids out) my son is no longer allergic to ANY foods!!!!!
    He went from not being able to eat 20 things (runny nose constantly) to being able to eat anything (milk, wheat, etc.). Everyday his mood improves. He’s become more talkative in social situations, more easy going, better listening, less zoning out (better every day on this one), laughing more, more willing to try new foods, eating better, better eye contact, no more bad dreams, sleeping better and more compliant. Seriously, I can’t believe the difference! His teachers are saying the same things, which is great to hear. The pediatrician now agrees with me that my son’s battle with Asthma, since he was 6 months old, was likely always his Tonsils and Adenoids and that the Asthma medicine was treating the problem.”
    Amazing, and who knows this might help some of you.

  48. Hmmm. Well, isn’t the resurgence of breastfeeding an upper middle-class white thing? So I think the answer is obvious: breastmilk causes autism and allergies.I am kidding. I am so, so kidding.
    And I am also very interested in the class/race issues around food allergies and disorders like autism.

  49. I’m reading all of these posts and thinking it is sort of sad that we’ve gone the direction we have when Moxie was looking for support for the parents of special needs kids.Being the parent of a kid who (as far as I know) only has to handle the regular all-consuming needs of a clingy toddler, all I can say is “well done!” and send internet hugs.
    Pumpkin goes to a nut-free day care, which is a non-issue to me, since I have a strong family history of allergies, and therefore won’t be feeding her peanut butter anytime soon. She is an exceptionally picky eater, so I can see how getting told about a new class of foods that I have to avoid would be stressful. I think that if one of her classmates was diagnosed with (for instance) a dairy allergy, I’d be really grateful to see a list of known “safe” foods that toddlers might eat and a list of common “gotchas”- foods that would seem safe to someone not reading the label as if their child’s life depends on it. It would make the request seem less overwhelming at first.
    It seems to me that if you are bothered by the restrictions that public schools have to put in place to accommodate all children, then you are free to move your kid to a private school that is allowed to be less accommodating. Everyone always says that the parents of the special needs child should move their kid (I’ve never been sure to where- a little school solely for allergic kids?) but I actually think it would be better to do it the other way around. You don’t want to avoid these foods? OK, well, go do a search and find a school that will allow them. Is that too much trouble? Then I guess it wasn’t as much trouble as you thought to avoid those foods. I have a vague memory of a saying that goes something like “a problem is only a problem if it is worse than the solution.”
    Which is not to say that you can’t complain with your partner and/or friends about the extra work required to handle the problem or find the solution!

  50. @Lea”It kills me to think of other parents feeling anger toward an allergic child and the inconvenience it causes them. They certainly didn’t ask for it; it’s just the way life is for them.”
    No one is feeling anger towards your child. We are all feeling anger towards political/special needs correctness that has gone so far, that it only worries about the special needs childs’ needs without finding any constructive way to resolve the problems. One cannot even propose a solution that accommodates most children, most of the time, well, that would be insensitive to the needs of one particular child, sometimes. There are reasonable requests, and then there are those that are very far reaching. And those are not small inconveniences as you seem to believe. It’s a small inconvenience for us to leave the nuts out of the brownie, it’s also a small inconvenience for my child’s classroom to impose more handwashing rules, alert me if any child has a severe cold/flu or any other contagious disease promptly because my daughter can carry it home to her father with cancer. But it is completely crazy to ask the classroom to sequester any child with a runny nose away from my daughter at all times, ask all children to bring in daily clean “school clothes” to change into, for the teachers to zap everything in sight with clorox multiple times a day, as our oncologist suggested. Those classrooms do not have the manpower, the time, the resources to deal with it. It is entirely silly to believe these are “small inconveniences”. And your child is not the only child with an allergy. Take 15 -20 children in a classroom, cumulatively there will be so many rules/regulations about what to eat that we may as well give our kids seaweed as lunch.

  51. I wanted to add another data point to the question raised by Flea. My son attends a Title 1 school as well, and I have never heard a thing about allergies. Parents are incouraged to bring in food for parties and birthdays; we’ve attended several events with food served and never heard anything regarding avoiding foods due to allergy.On a different note, are there other parents out there with ADHD type kids. My son looks like an ADHD kid when he’s bored and understimulated (which he is often at school). I get a lot of negative feedback from his school, but I hate the idea of medicating him to fix a problem I don’t think he has.

  52. “And your child is not the only child with an allergy. Take 15 -20 children in a classroom, cumulatively there will be so many rules/regulations about what to eat that we may as well give our kids seaweed as lunch.”So has this happened? I’m interested; yes, I can imagine a theoretical situation where a class might have four kids with different life-threatening allergies. Is that what you’re dealing with? Because if not, then I think it’s disingenuous to complain about a hypothetical possibility.
    I do think that barring entire groups of food just in case with no allergic child in sight is over-reactive. AFAIK, that has nothing to do with the type of situation Moxie brought up. It also has nothing to do with the types of accommodations I and other parents I know have had to fight for in order to keep our kids alive and in school.
    And it has nothing to do with ridiculous schools banning bananas as too sugary.
    Please, please, can we separate food restrictions imposed to keep particular named kids safe from food restrictions imposed of any of ten million other reasons? And from hypothetical overlapping sets of restrictions that could in theory occur but that no one here can actually say they’re dealing with?

  53. @ Lolimum: “I don’t mean to sound like a harsh, heartless prick.” That’s funny, ’cause that’s EXACTLY what you sound like to me. (They are your words, not mine.) I hear that you are under a great deal of stress with you own family situation, but maybe you should reread your posts when you are in a better mood or under less stress, and try and think about what you actually sound like to parents of special needs kids. I am interested in knowing how much you pay for preschool. If you are so unhappy, why don’t YOU find a new school? I look forward to your answer.An hour ago I picked up my peanut allergic son from school, and his teacher handed me the Benedryl that I provided for him and quickly told me that it was illegal for her to give it to him, and the school would send home a letter. This encounter took less than 20 seconds. I called the school when we got home, and there was no one to talk to; “everyone is in a meeting.” My son is 3 yrs old, and this school goes to the 8th grade. “Cliff” is an understatement.

  54. @hedraYes, obviously an epipen is not the answer to all allergy problems. Not that I suggested it was, it was one of the things I listed as reducing the likelihood of a child having problems and other children from having to over-worry about where there hands are.
    My main point is and was that we cannot react to children with needs by imposing regulation after regulation on other children in the same classroom. So take your patronizing attitude elsewhere. I have a child with asthma and a husband on the verge of life and death with cancer, and I rely on the community’s help and accomodation as well, and I am extremely grateful for it. But I do believe that at some point, when my family’s needs are special accommodation are so great, I cannot ask everyone else to suspend their daily function. My family’s needs do not trump all else, no matter how heart breaking the situation.

  55. Asthma is more prevalent in lower income environments. It could be that the tendency to have an allergy is the same across income levels, but that the specific allergy you end up with is somehow correlated to income. How, I don’t know, and I haven’t even got a wild-a$$ed guess as to why food allergies would show up more in wealthier kids. The theory on asthma in lower income kids is that they are exposed to more airway irritants because they tend to live in more polluted areas.@lolismum, at the risk of sounding incredibly rude, I think that the key difference between the scenario you describe with your husband’s chemo and a kid with life-threatening food allergies is that your husband’s chemo is a limited time thing- he will finish the chemo, so you are making special arrangements for your kid for a relatively short period of time. The food allergies won’t go away, so you’re asking those parents to make arrangements for the entire school career of their child. And what arrangements do you think they should make? Home school?

  56. I can definitely empathize with the parents who struggle to find ANYTHING that their child will eat, then to find that food on the restricted list. Feeding our children goes to the absolute core of humanity…..millions of years…..much like hunting and gathering and nesting tendencies. No wonder it’s such a hot-button topic – for both sides.My son thankfully does not suffer from food allergies. He does, however, participate in a highly self-restricted diet. Which makes feeding him difficult. I also know that he eats differently (read: better) for other people than he does for me. I know that if he got hungry enough, he would branch out more. And I hope that the parents in his preschool community would tell us about any severe allergic reactions that might be in his class/school so we could accommodate them. It would be awful to have to eliminate cheese from his diet at school because it is one of the only forms of protein he will eat. However, I know his little body would kick-in at some point and either compensate when we are at home, or (gasp) branch out and try something new.
    I find often, when I release some of my tension about issues, I’m much more likely to be led down a road with some new answers to old problems than I would if I held tightly to what I know works right now.
    I don’t think everything needs to be purchased at expensive stores. Cat19’s list looks fantastic, and very doable.
    And really, how much food is actually consumed at preschool (or even elementary school) during the day? As a parent of a preschooler, I’m pretty sure he could survive on water and fruit and be just fine (and judging from his lunchbox, that’s pretty much what he’s eating). And as a teacher at an elementary school the kids I know are much less interested in eating, and much more interested in getting out to the playground asap to get the BLUE tetherball, the BLACK basketball, or whatever they deem valuable that week.
    I can honestly see both sides of the argument, but have to err on the side of the parents whose children could die. To parents whose children have a severe reaction to foods and are not getting the support they need at the elementary school level – I urge you to at least get a 504 plan (some schools may not allow food issues to be incorporated into an IEP – it will vary by district and state, but 504 plans are the catchall for pretty much everything else under the sun) in place so that legally the school MUST provide accommodations for your child. It is an ugly system, the public school system – but there are ways to make it work.

  57. I think a lot of the lunch thing is because we’ve been culturally (and corporately) trained to believe that a lunch is XYZ. Particularly when XYZ involves corn chips and Wonder Bread. In which case you do need the high-fat protein to balance it out.My mind was blown on this one when I sent my son to daycare.
    Mind you, I already lean towards the hippie end of food. But their meals have to have halal, kosher, and vegan alternatives plus they have several kids who are lactose intolerant (as much of the world’s non-Western population is). And no nuts.
    So they have curried potatoes, peas, and chick peas… all the components and the curry are separated and the kids mix their own. And rice and ‘peas’ (beans) and veggie jamaican patties, and broccoli tofu stir fry over brown rice. Veg/potato samosas. Roll your own bean burritos and fajitas.
    And the kids eat it up, because of the Peer Pressure, mwahaha. Also because the teachers eat those things. Also because the kids eat those things. And probably because they separate out a lot of things, so there is a lot of choice available. (Always veggies and whole-grain bread, for example.)
    Did you know broccoli has 5 g protein per cup? I did not. Green peas – the sweet kind – have 4 g protein per 1/2 cup. Raisins – 3 g per 1/2 cup. An egg only has 6-7 g.
    Anyways, that helped teach me that we have so many hangups about lunchboxes. Sure, there are reheating issues (refrigeration issues can be dealt with with a frozen ice pack or juice box and an insulated bag), but I can see down the road we can do salads and dips and pitas.
    I do think it takes the village though. Kids eat PB&J not because they are somehow wired for it (just try to find PB in other areas of the world) but because we train them that way. Maybe we are a transition generation.
    I’m eyeing bento boxes full of cheap leftovers for our future. 🙂

  58. T is getting ear tubes and his adenoids removed tomorrow. No food intolerance/allergies that we know of but goodness the never ending cold with resulting ear infections. Think good thoughts for him if you are so inclinded.My heart goes out to all the parents struggling with these various issues. I’m accommodating by nature but it seems to me that if by taking a little extra care with the food I send to a pre-school or school would make life a little better/safer for the other children that my child spends time with day in and day out, well, I’d hope that if the tables were ever turned, other people would show my child the same compassion.

  59. “I can honestly see both sides of the argument, but have to err on the side of the parents whose children could die.”Julie, you’ve hit the nail on the head. That’s not to say I won’t ever grumble about food restrictions if we end up having to deal with them at school, but it is important to put things in perspective.

  60. The problem here is that the rules are imposed without there being any need for them. OK if a child is going to die fine no nuts or whatever but once the child has moved on then surely bring in the nuts. Why the blanket policies? I know of kids who have had to go hungry because they had the gall to bring something in without the package to prove it was nut free and the one child with the mild nut allergy in a different class was not even in school that day.

  61. I think everyone should lay off lolismum. Because people are treating her as though she is the problem. I would say she is clearly illustrating what is a much bigger institutional problem. I would wager that having a very, very ill husband at home makes her much less likely to have the time and energy to be constantly bombarded with new demands about how to feed her child (especially on top of having to teach her kid not to be loud or touch other children in the room). And to do this without adequate facilities or help from the school and to have the added pressue that she is going to be KILLING someone else’s child if she doesn’t do it perfectly, I can see how that would be too much.Look, we don’t know what everyone else is going through, so although you might think that researching and doing all this is no big deal, it really might be too much for someone else. Try to buy “safe” foods on WIC which don’t require a lot of prep work and your kid can eat during a short lunch break.
    So yes, more lists of safe foods are good (although Oreos don’t count as lunch in my book, but they certainly work as treats) as is encouraging schools to actually help other parents follow the rules instead of just imposing them. As is figuring out ways of getting both safe and healthy foods into schools.

  62. Are all of you making statements along the lines of “of course I am avoiding peanuts/nuts/etc/what-have-you for years” aware that this practice has been shown to increase the incidence of allergic reactions? Be careful or you could perpetuate your family’s problem to new generations.And if an allergy is not of the IgE/allergy/etc type, then it is not an allergy. It is an intolerance, and I would go so far as to say it would be impossible to have a reaction without consumption of the food.

  63. “participate in a highly self-restricted diet”ha! I love it! mine can suddenly say “I no like it” and he’s getting his mileage out of that phrase, I tell you what. I hope that there is a healthy school lunch when he goes to school so some professional has to monitor all this no dairy stuff (I’d mess it up) and also because I kind of admire, kind of hate the people who have a hi-res photo of a rainbow-hued ‘bento box’ every single day…it’s all I can do to find 2 socks that match, I am not cut out for the Lunch as Art movement, that’s for sure.

  64. wow that’s the first I have ever heard of non dairy non nut class. I figured that if an allergy was THAT severe, the parents would just home school their kid. I’m sure there are programs that can help with that.

  65. I have a friend who is home-schooling because her kids have severe food allergies. And I think that is just sad. But with some of the comments I’ve read today, I can’t blame her!And…hello? Even if an allergy isn’t truly life-threatening…what human parent wants to cause some kid to get covered in major welts/painful hives/have trouble breathing/panic, etc.?
    We do a lot of hummus sandwiches and “roll-ups” (tortilla wraps) with coldcuts and veggies but no cheese. Almost every day. My daughter also apparently really likes rice and black beans…so when I make it for dinner, I set aside some for lunches. Also, cous-cous is sold cheaply by the pound where I live, and cooks in 5 minutes. I mix it with leftover chicken and one or two of the few veggies my daughter likes and send that in her lunch.

  66. “Try to buy “safe” foods on WIC which don’t require a lot of prep work and your kid can eat during a short lunch break.”I agree, it’s crazy. When I was on WIC and my son was small, the only things they would pay for that he and I could eat were beans, juice, and cereal. But that’s a problem with WIC, not with kids with allergies.
    “I figured that if an allergy was THAT severe, the parents would just home school their kid. I’m sure there are programs that
    can help with that.”
    How lovely an idea. When you find the program that pays rent/mortgage and utilities, provides health insurance, and leaves enough to have heat and food when someone leaves their paying job to homeschool a kid, please let me know. Until then, I think such parents are entirely reasonable to think that the taxes that provide an education legally guaranteed to every child in the US should do so for children with allergies as well.
    “if an allergy is not of the IgE/allergy/etc type, then it is not an allergy. It is an intolerance”
    Contemporary medical wisdom is that allergies involve an *immune system response,* whether mediated by IgE or by an as-yet-unidentified substance. So according to both my son’s allergist and his gastrentrologist, what he has are non-IgE-mediated allergies that involve his immune system. They are not intolerances.
    In my son’s case, some of his IgE-mediated food reactions are potentially life-threatening; his non-IgE reactions (for which we have asked for and received no accomodations, BTW) are not life-threatening.
    I do think lolimoms has the right to expect support and help from her child’s school/daycare, including help in providing a list of safe and age-appropriate foods. (My older kid actually does eat and enjoy seaweed, but I didn’t see the point of putting it on my list.)
    And to anyone who has faced such a list of food restrictions, if you’re not given a list of safe foods, then ask for one. Ask if you can brainstorm ideas with the parents of the food-allergic child.
    I should also add, to supplement the poitn I made about Oreos, that you need to check the label of the Oreos you buy; US Oreos in the regular-package size in my part of the country are vegan; I understand that Nabiscos does make some Oreos abroad that are not vegan… and I have never tried the small package size, plus they’re adding flavors all the time. So don’t rely just on my word; check before you buy.

  67. Another thing that strikes me when parents start to talk about food allergies is the level of fear that consumes them. It must be terrifying to see your child (or even a stranger!) in anaphylaxis, or having a skin reaction that you fear my lead to anaphylaxis. But according to the epi-pen people (on their web site), only 125 people a year die of anaphylaxis caused by food allergies (all foods, all ages) in the US. The numbers for insect stings and penicillin allergies causing death by anaphylaxis are much, much higher (75% of anaphylaxis deaths are a result of penicillin, more than 4000 a year in the US, again according the epi-pen citing medical studies). But it’s the food that causes the fear. I wonder if it’s because of the importance of food and food purity in our culture, and the feeling that we should be able to control what our children eat?I think the reason this issue is so contentious is this level of fear. The people who are afraid are truly, and seriously, afraid, but the people who have no or limited experience with food allergies 1) have trouble understanding what the fear is like and 2) may feel that the fear is exaggerated (since there are so many people who say “I am allergic to X” when what they really mean is “I don’t like it/it makes me gassy.”)

  68. I’ve been known to come off like a “harsh, heartless prick,” too. Let’s be real here: for better and for worse, the world is not the same one we grew up in. Now every third family has some challenging issue. Abnormal is the new normal. But guess what: it’s not about us against them. That never gets us anywhere. Can’t we be gentler with one another?Personally, I will not take chances with the health of other people’s children, let alone my own! I don’t want that kind of LIABILITY. This is also why we vaccinate. If it means I might have to get creative and figure out a way to bring a lunch that is ***healthful for everyone in the class***, then so be it. It’s the de facto tuition we pay for living in a diverse society. If I don’t like it, I can homeschool.

  69. Lots of doctors (family practice, peds, etc.) in the family, so I’ve heard their theory about increased prevalence of life-threatening food allergies in wealthier populations. It has to do with differing diagnosis rates and overzealous physician management, not a real difference in incidence.In affluent communities, parents have access to good preventative care and often have their children allergy-tested at the first sign of a reaction (rash, hives, vomiting, etc.) Allergy diagnostics are imperfect and it’s very difficult to predict how severe future reactions will be. To err on the safe side, strict elimination/restriction is prescribed.
    Affluent families also have the resources to implement a restricted diet and to advocate for a safe environment at school. Poorer families, in contrast, can often only afford (logistically and financially) a trip to the ER when something is life-threatening. Most food allergies go undiagnosed and families learn through experience to avoid foods that cause problems. The issue never makes it to school/community advocacy level, so you don’t get the widespread restrictions.
    Interestingly, we don’t see an epidemic of life-threatening allergic reactions in poorer school communities due to lax food protocols. We should, if the true incidence of severe food allergies is not dependent on socio-economic status. An interesting test case would be to suspend all restrictions in a previously highly restricted environment and see if there are any negative outcomes. But, what parent in their right mind would sign up for that?
    If, in fact, the allergists are being hysterical in their recommendations, we need to push back at the medical community for better diagnostic tools and evidence-based precautions. How sad would it be if families on both sides of this issue are being put through all this just for physician CYA.

  70. cat19 – speaking as part of the contemporary medical community, another part of the comtemporary medical wisdom is that it is usually wisest to agree with parents when it doesn’t really matter and phrase things in ways that will make them go away happy.

  71. @anonymous today- actually, the studies are inconclusive on the benefits of delaying exposure to allergens. Some show that it helps, some show that it makes allergies more likely, and some show no effect at all. I have read the studies, because my history of allergies makes my child more likely to develop food allergies, and I wanted to decide what I thought I should do to help minimize that chance. What I learned from that review of the scientific literature is that we just don’t know what parents should do.The only food I don’t feed her is peanuts, but I do not try to exclude any cross-contamination, etc., because I have no evidence of an allergy. I made my decision based on the fact that peanut allergies often present as very severe from the first exposure and that avoiding peanuts is pretty easy right now. Also, I figured we could wait until she was able to tell us what was wrong if she did have a reaction: “mommy, my throat is itchy” is a lot more informative than the general screaming we still get at 18 months when something is wrong!
    Beyond that, I won’t worry about food allergies unless they become a problem for us. But I do keep children’s benadryl on hand at all times.

  72. @Lemon, ” I am interested in knowing how much you pay for preschool. If you are so unhappy, why don’t YOU find a new school? I look forward to your answer.”I imagine you expected me to say I pay diddly for preschool, and you would be wrong.
    Well, Lemon, here is your answer. I pay $1200 a month for half-day PK, at a private school, where the median family income, for non-scholorship students is, $350,000 annually. So there goes your theory. The preschool of which I speak had even a higher median income and wealthier parents. But while I moved cities and states for my job, and while we waited for a position to open up in PK at the aforementioned school, my daughter attended a public preschool, 18 kids, 1 had a nut allergy, but there was no blanket regulation. So my 3 data points suggest, the more affluent the parents/family, the more demanding they are about imposing their will on others. And yes, I did change schools from one to the other because the rules and regulations were becoming ridiculous. The public school had its host of problems, but none had to do with limiting food exposure.
    And @paola, my brother is married to an Italian and lives in Italy. The first solid food his kids ate at the age of 6 months was parmesan. When my niece was in preschool she had roasted garlic with spinach. Cracked me up.

  73. gah, this is such a contentious issue. we’ve got a ‘severe tree nut allergy’ in my son’s Kindergarden class, and we were only notified the night before school started with a letter. I actually knew because I had spoken with the mother earlier that week, so I was prepared, but it was so unnecessarily stressful. I also have a child who really doesn’t have a huge list of foods that he will eat, so if there are restrictions, I need time to prepare (earlier in the summer he was in a nut free camp, and I found a great peanut butter substitue, but it took me a few days of shopping to do so). Almost all the stuff I had in terms of snacks were out, so I had to find alternatives. I am happy to do this, but again, it takes time. the worst part for me, was no one (not even the mom, truthfully) was great about giving me a list of either things to use or avoid. what I wanted was “here are the things to be careful with and check the labels, bread, crackers, etc., instead I felt like I was on my own, never really sure if something is ok, or not and just hoping that I’m doing my part.

  74. Late to the game, but I had to chime in here. My 22 month old son is anaphylactic to eggs and sesame and severely allergic to garlic, black, pepper, and cantaloupe. He attends daycare 2 days per week in a class of 15 other children. He has a child in his class who is allergic to tree nuts, eggs, dairy, and wheat. The school does not restrict what children bring in their lunches and I am FULLY in support of that policy. Why? I simply could never trust other parents to be as vigilant about ingredients as we are and having some sort of “allergy-free” policy would create a false since of security. People who have not dealt with food allergy simply have no idea of the vigilance it requires in reading ingredients, avoiding cross-contamination, etc. Instead the center enforces a strict no-sharing policy along with a strict policy of washing hands, faces, and tables after eating.And now for the PSA portion of my comment. For all the parents out there…please never use the term “food allergy” for your child unless your child has a diagnosed food allergy. Intolerances, while they can be severe (and we know, we have some of those too) are not the same and confuse the issue for other parents/daycare providers. If you think your child has a food allergy you need to get them tested if they do take it seriously and carry an epi pen.

  75. So interested in the question of why all these allergies. Saw an amazing bit on 60 Minutes a while ago about a nutritional supplement saving loads of babies and kids in Africa – and it’s called Plumpy Nut. Because it’s made of peanut butter, among other things. And they feed it to babies. And all my mom hackles go up, just seeing a baby eat peanut butter. When asked about nut allergies, the Doctors Without Borders pediatrician said that they’re pretty much unheard of there. Huh?? So what’s going on here?

  76. Just a teacher’s perspective on this one… privacy laws would forbid me from telling other parents which child is allergic and how severely. Back in the days when I taught PreK, we would invite parents of special needs (of any kind) children to talk to the class (very informally, like during circle time) about what was going on and how we need to help the child(ren). I would also encourage parents to talk to each other and make it clear to other parents the severity of allergies, etc. But, unfortunately, if the parents didn’t want to do this, there wasn’t much I could do except note that the classroom had to be “nut-free” etc.

  77. @Lolismom – I would like to tone it down with you, if you are agreeable. I have too much respect for Moxie’s site to be involved with any topic that goes down in flames. Can we please agree to watch our language and our tones?I was irked when I responded to you, and actually did not assume that you attended a free school. Although I can certainly understand how you may have read it that way. It does not surprise me that the tuition at your school is high – people with special needs of XYZ kind who have means will sometimes buy their way into a situation which makes them feel that their child is more safe. In my case, I am spending a much more modest tuition on my son. I have never made any special requests to accommodate his peanut allergy, other than he sit at the nut free table (within the cafeteria where many students are eating PB&J’s) This was something they offered, and I happily accepted. Today they sent home his medication, saying it was “illegal” for them to give it to him. Which is crap. Tomorrow I get to go to the school and find out what their “plan” is if he should be accidentally exposed to peanuts. Apparently, this plan does not include drugs which is ridiculous. So I am sensitive to the topic today, and your comments read in an extremely harsh manner to me. As extreme you think that the rules and regulations are in your school (or former school)…. you view points are/were coming across in the opposite extreme.
    “I also have a beef with “normal” children (by that I mean children who do not have any diagnosed special needs) and their parents bending over backwards to accomodate every allergy, problem, sensitivity etc.”
    B/c of privacy issues (my state has very strict HIPPA laws; no one is allowed to share diagnosis of one person with a group of people.) So really, who are you to judge who the “normal”” children and their parents are?
    And fwiw, I’m sooooo tired of the stats that get thrown around: “only 120 people died last year” or whatever the number is. Tens of thousands of people per year experience anaphylaxis reactions, which can lead to a life threatening situation if not treated. How many people are saved from death by heart attack by defibrillators? Epipens and benedryl are carried by all the food allergy people I know. I have them stashed all over the place.
    And especially with food allergies, parents are “paranoid” b/c they might not be worried about this reaction, it’s the next one, and the next. Because each reaction gets progressively worse than the one before.
    And don’t forget, we are talking about these little little kids. Who do not possess the capability to be advocates for themselves in order to keep their little bodies safe. So their parents need to send them out into the world alone, which seems so unsafe, and these parents are merely doing whatever they can to ensure the safety of their children by putting safe guards in place. And don’t just blame the parents. The schools (especially the private ones) consult with lawyers to determine what protocols are put in place to reduce liability issues.

  78. So, coming back with some more time, and a calmer start.@lolismom, I thought you were being pretty patronizing, actually. An epipen is an emergency tool, and should of course be available for emergencies. But generally we like to try prevention first. That’s typically already part of the plan, so it sounded like you felt that that should be it. Over, done. Emergency management as THE management. It seemed kind of patronizing to those who would like to prevent a problem, instead of just ERing anything that does happen. But it also seems that it was the way you wrote it that pushed those buttons, not necessarily your intent. Your later comments list out the intention better, so… Start over.
    So, actual problem-solving. I know only two families with contact-sensitive severe reactions. One is to peanut, the other to dairy. What sounds like a big part of the problem in your school’s case is that they are not set up to accommodate the intersections of real people. They’re solving only ONE set of problems. This is a big issue in a lot of problem-solving approaches – it’s the ‘give the child everything they ever ask for’ approach. Solves the child’s problem, but the adults (and everyone else around) are going to be left not only with their original problem, but a lot more down the road…
    It also sounds like you have been facing much more obnoxious conditions in the classroom conditions than I pictured. The families I know were very involved in trying to make this EASY on everyone else, rather than just dumping it and running, which it sounds like is happening with you?
    Parents can be jerks, regardless of their family situations, I suppose.
    So, problem-solving would mean communication, and making clear that if one solution just causes another problem, that’s not a good solution. There should be more than one option. Sometimes that means asking the teacher if they’ll pass a message for you. (So far, teachers have all been willing to do that when I’ve asked.)
    I find I also take the side of ‘children with special needs shouldn’t be sidelined’. Home schooling isn’t appropriate for all, and the public school system exists specifically to provide access to education for everyone. Regardless of issues, *everyone*. I know a child with leukemia who is attending school. Nobody is freaking about the accommodations, but I also know that the parents (and doctors) were really on-task on helping make it functional for everyone else, not JUST for the child needing accommodation.
    (I also agree that some allergists set the parents up to fear more, pointing all the risk analysis to ‘severity of risk’ rather than also accounting for ‘likelihood of risk’ and so forth.) (and I also agree that it being food-related just completely mangles some of the emotional processing – so much meaning is tied up in food, our experience of food, etc.) (and I also think we tend to get wrapped up a lot about our kids’ experience of ‘normal’ childhood, expecting that normal is what WE experienced, and has nothing to do with what they’re actually experiencing… Halloween is coming up, and I remember how I used to get so torqued over how it was changed from all the freedom and joy I remembered, and then I noticed that my kids happen to like how it works – it is *their* normal. Mine is just weird!)(Anyway, @lolismom, I made some assumptions, and you know what that means… mea culpa. I still think you could have stated it better – your irritation came through stronger than your thinking did, IMHO – but then, so did mine.)
    ***
    Food lists. Try FAAN or POFAK. But never trust the list, check the ingredients. And better if you get info from the teacher.
    ***
    Emotional support for others going through the process… See my thoughts on ‘normal’ above – I used to worry that my kids wouldn’t get to have a ‘normal’ childhood if they couldn’t eat this or that, if they were always going to the hospital for tests, etc. But it quickly became clear that it wasn’t about a normal childhood, it was about life, long-term. My greatest distress was about the not growing thing – not that they’d end up short, but that the lack of growth (zero inches from 18 to 24 months, say) meant that other systems would be so lacking nutrients that long-term dreams for the future were being wrecked before they even had a chance to dream them.
    But that goes. The anger goes, the sorrow goes. They will dream their dreams and will tune them to their own lives, and those dreams will or will not come true – but they don’t have the perspective of the outside to mourn what does not come to pass the way I might. So I stopped. (mostly, I still will stub a toe on a dream now and then.) This, I suspect is where lolismom actually has the most resonance in her experience – at least I imagine so… having your child’s father at risk also mangles the dreams. But the future is what it will be, and we just carry forward in the new path, and try not to leak tears on our child’s head, so to speak.
    It is tiresome work sometimes. We’re off back to another round of hospital visits coming up in November. It’s boring. It’s limiting, at times, especially if I’ve been immersed in my own life, and forget that nobody else needs to care – and I do forget. They MAY care, but they don’t need to, if they care it is a gift, and it is important to not grab at that gift greedily (which I think is part of what lolismom is also not seeing in the other parents around her – I know it leaves a bad taste behind).
    Anyway. I do sometimes envy people whose kids can just eat stuff. Like, just eat it, without reading anything. Without having to look it up on some FDA database, without having to try to assess whether the same kind of thing had been eaten in too great quantity over the last three days, without having to eyeball for symptoms real quick before letting them have another bite. At the same time, I’m also glad that we’ve got at least a good working hypothesis at this point, and that it means we do not have to deal with acid burn diarrhea, spiraling three hour rage fits, or crushing anxiety.
    And there are odd bits of humor and sanity in it, too. And this really is normal for my kids. They’re enjoying it, and growing (woo!) and carrying on with their dreams, so, eh, I get out of the way, and let them have their childhood the way it shapes itself, and not how I imagined it should be. (Sometimes it takes someone stepping on my toe to remind me, though, before I trip them up.)

  79. I keep starting to comment and then stopping, so if anyone who would benefit from my experience here actually reads this far, I should be shocked.I recognized my daughter’s food aversions and tactile hypersensitivity (“recognized”, as in noticed and took seriously) before anyone else did, including the pediatrician. Now, I love my ped, but I knew in my heart that my daughter’s issues with touching wet things, particularly foods, were going to be a problem. Eventually, he agreed.
    The problem then was where to go for help. The one doctor he wanted us to see wouldn’t see us because she specializes in how these things play into toileting issues, and we had not begun toilet training. So, where to go? The ped just told me to call the specialist, as there was no one else he could think of.
    What worked for me: talking to people even when I didn’t feel like explaining anymore. There is no question that it is frustrating to talk to people who at the moment have no room in their minds or hearts for kids who are exceptions to the rule. It is a giant exercise in knowing when to stop, nod, and make a note to oneself to dismiss everything they are saying.
    HOWEVER, if you are looking for help and you don’t talk to other parents, you might miss the diamond in the rough. In my case, it was talking to my mom’s neighbor at her garage sale. The neighbor’s boys look, from a distance, completely “normal”, but it turned out that the neighbor had had to pursue speech therapy for both boys. And she was happy to share what she knew with me. We didn’t find ourselves seeking the same therapies, but she knew what channels might be most helpful to me. She turned out to be right, and my daughter has been getting the help she needs though I never would have found it on my own or through my ped.
    I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re looking up at that cliff and feeling alone, you’re not – but the others who will help you are not always easily found. Keep looking. It’s worth it.

  80. “Please, please, can we separate food restrictions imposed to keep particular named kids safe from food restrictions imposed of any of ten million other reasons?”Our center does not allowed shared facility foods regardless of whether there is a nut-allergic child in the classroom. I would happily spring for 100% whole-grain organic crackers if I could find some that aren’t manufactured in shared facilities.
    And while we can bring in some fruit, we cannot bring in snacks that require refrigeration.
    I also think there is a considerable divide between the needs of preschoolers and the needs of elementary school children. If Moxie’s son wants to give up cheese, fine. But it seems like a better practice to require kids to wash their hands after eating, regardless of what they eat.

  81. @amy, I’m still reading. And I agree: finding others facing the same cliff (or a similar one) isn’t always easy, but it can make such an enormous difference.

  82. @Caroline– I read about the Plumpy Nut bars too. The article I saw suggested that these doctors are giving the bars to malnourished children just trying to stay alive. So they don’t have health care, they don’t even have enough food. So any incidence of a severe food allergy– you’re not going to hear about it, because the poor child isn’t going to make it long enough for it to be diagnosed. When your child mortality is through the roof due to malnutrition, peanuts are going to help a heck of a lot more kids than they’re going to hurt.I guess what I’m trying to say is that their problems swamp out food allergies. You don’t hear about a tiny percentage of kids with allergies when you have a comparatively huge percentage of kids dying of malnutrition.

  83. My 2 year old son has a life-threatening peanut allergy. We are slowly learning to accomodate his needs. We carry an epi-pen everywhere. He has two at daycare as well. Our allergist advised that he avoid all nuts as well as they are often processed on shared equipment with peanuts and they have the same odd molecular structure as peanuts, so kids with peanut allergies often develop allergies to other nuts as well. In addition to the obvious, we have to avoid ice cream, all baked goods from outside our own home, and many, many restaurants (who would have thought that Pizza Hut has something peanuty in their sauce).Long story short. A friend hooked me up with a mom she knew who had a 6 year old son who was diagnosed at about the same age as Jack is now. I asked her how she handles the social hour after church, birthdays, Halloween, family reunions etc, etc and she said “We just don’t go. It turned out to be too scary and too hard to keep him safe”. My heart broke a little more. How is it right that my precious, smart, funny, boisterous, defiant little boy should be denied these basic pleasures of childhood? We have to leave playgrounds regularly–have you seen the number of candy wrappers in those places? We wipe down what we can. I guess I just don’t understand why you’d want to begrudge him a safe place to learn and cause him to be without even more of a normal childhood so that you can send a particular kind of food with your kid. My goodness, it is a 6 or 7 hour day. He is a real person. So am I. Saying keep him out of school seems so rotten to me. I have to work. He deserves to be accomodated and not isolated at school or kept at home.
    I’m sorry that this is so long. I’m crying as I write it and right not I have little empathy for folks who find it inconvenient to change their kids lunches. I’m sure my statements seem hysterical and not a logical argument, but this is the kind of thing I expect to find on a “mainstream” website not here where there is usually so much support and love in the sharing of how we mother. In fact, this is one of those places that I count on for women who get it and believe we are all in this together. I hear your frustration at the inconvenience and potential cost of accomodation, but I really think if you remember that these are real children you might not mind so much. If you need a reminder, email me and I’ll send you a picture of my little boy to carry to the grocery store with you. His might be the terrifying, painful, costly anaphylactic reaction you prevent. If he doesn’t persuade you, think about the psychological detriment to your own child, who presumably you do care about, if they are the cause of that reaction.

  84. Interestingly, at my girls’ daycare, one child just got diagnosed with an apple intolerance. I saw that the teachers’ message board on the fridge said “(child’s name) – NO APPLES” then snuck a peek at the doctor’s note attached to her clipboard that was hanging next to one of my girls’ clipboards (to which we add our daily sheets of instructions).There wasn’t any communication to the other parents, and the dr note specifically said “intolerance” not allergy, but it did say the child couldn’t have apples, juice or anything containing apples.
    So far, I haven’t noticed that my girls are sensitive to anything. Knock on wood. They’re 14 months old, and I’ve dared with giving them a tiny bit of peanut butter on toast so far. But then I got cold feet and am terrified of “giving them” an allergy. I’ve been scared into not giving them strawberries.
    It’s tough to know whether to believe the guidelines that say not to give these highly allergenic foods to little kiddos til they’re 2 or 3 when you have no family history of food allergies and no personal experience with them. But reading stories here, I hope to not have to deal with any allergies, nor face other parents’ reactions to having to implement dietary restrictions in classrooms.

  85. Nancy, Hang in there. I thought your email was very logical and not hysterical. It is hard, and I myself have been worrying about Halloween for weeks now. I agree with your statement that usually people at this site speak with a gentler tone and “get it.” My initial shock turned to anger, but now I’m just sad. Very sad.And I feel like somehow or another, most of the things that we covered were allergies. There are a whole other host of communities struggling to educate students in integrated classrooms. My nephew has severe CP, physical disabilities, learning and cognitive disability, behavioral problems and Aspergers on top of it. And the school system just cut out the classroom aids from the budget. My sister, who is really active in her town, was approached by many other parents saying how sorry they were… but her response was “It impacts YOUR child too, in a huge way.” The one teacher has to spend all this extra time with my nephew, which takes away from her time teaching the typically developing children. And my nephew is only one of several disabled children in his class. Last year we spent months trying to get him out of the school system into a special school for disabled individuals. And the school system fought it tooth and nail, b/c they don’t want to spend the $$ on it. So therein lies the conundrum. The other parents don’t want your kid in the classroom b/c they are too needy, too disruptive, too time consuming, too blah blah blah. You try to get them out and it’s like trying to break out of jail. And then these poor kids – what models for friendships do they have? They sense that they are not wanted. It’s heartbreaking.
    Nancy I hope your son is able to outgrow some of the severity of his allergy. And try Parent Hacks (web site) for Halloween ideas for allergic kids. Ironically, they had this same type of “debate” last week.

  86. Nancy, hedra, and everybody else dealing with health situations for your kids, I want to support you. I was very moved by what you wrote and I’m pulling for all of you and your little kids.As an aside, if any of my kids end up having allergies like you’ve described, and someone else’s kid brings something allergenic to school despite our very clear warning list about OK Foods and NOT OK Foods, and then my kid has a reaction… Oh hell no!! There will be absolute hell to pay. I’m blessed with many interesting resources. That kid’s parents will be held personally responsible by my family in a court of law. So all of you haters out there who can’t be bothered to have some respect and courtesy for other people’s kids’ well-being can add that to your list of Why It Pays To Be A Good Person. Karma is a beeyotch.

  87. I can’t read all of the comments right now but I have some VERY IMPORTANT ADVICE FOR PARENTS OF FOOD ALLERGY CHILDREN.I have a daughter who is severely allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish. She’s in full day Kindergarten this year and I was so surprised to learn that there are SIX CHILDREN with similar allergies in the three kindergarten classes at her school. Anyway this is my advice to parents. PLEASE DON’T ASSUME THAT YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL HAS THE FOOD ALLERGY PROBLEM UNDER CONTROL. I was shaking on my daughter’s first day of school while they were having lunch. All of the precautions I thought were going to be taken WERE NOT. One little girl with a peanut allergy was sitting in the middle of two little girls that had peanut butter sandwiches. Kids were running everywhere and to me it was like them running around with guns with real bullets. It was that scary. I left lunch in tears and went right to the principal’s office and had a meeting with her and the school nurse immediately. They admitted they dropped the ball.
    It’s nearly a month into school I have been the one to put the policies in place in the lunchroom. The “allergy” kids table is carefully monitored and those children don’t use the main bathroom, they get to use the bathroom in their classrooms during lunchtime to reduce the possibility of them coming in contact with peanut butter smears on the toilet or anywhere else in the bathroom (Kindergarteners are MESSY!!). As the children finish their lunch and line up each child gets their hands and faces wiped. And for the especially sloppy kids that have peanut butter smears all over them we put them to the side and wash them up extra well before sending them on their way.
    Please, my advice is just not to assume it’s being given the special attention it needs. Teachers and aids can only do so much and it’s your job to make sure it’s really being followed up on. If it’s allowed, make it your business to stop in and see how things are being run. You might be pleasantly surprised (I hope) but you might be horrified like I was that it just wasn’t really taken seriously at all. If it’s a cafeteria, the allergy kids should be at a table next to the wall so that there isn’t a row of kids with allergens sitting at your child’s back. Ideally, kids having peanut butter should be at their own table at the opposite end of the room. They’re the dangerous kids!
    In my case I am comfortable now that the issues are being taken seriously and that all are on board with safety. But if you leave it to chance that someone else is making sure it’s being done you may be very sorry.
    One last thing, send in a book for the teacher to read that explains to children in their language what can happen if their friend is around a “bad” food for them. In my daughter’s case we got the book “Allie the Allergic Elephant.” It’s a book about an elephant that’s allergic to peanuts. You might even be able to do a google search and get a lesson plan to send in with the teacher. The kids can learn about what foods make their friends sick and believe it or not… little kids are so much more willing to help their friends than their ignorant parents are!! There is one little girl that my daughter is friends with that always had a peanut butter sandwich. Her mother always told me that she ONLY eats peanut butter (I guess they have interesting dinners??) Two weeks ago after the teacher read the book, her mother called and said that her daughter who only eats peanut butter, refused to take it because she wanted to sit at the allergy table with her friend. So, kids may change way before the parents will. 🙂 Good luck to any parents dealing with food allergies.
    And to the person who asked if it’s an upper middle class thing…I don’t really think so. We’re middle class – not on the “upper” side. I’ve never had food allergies in my family or my husbands. It’s a growing epidemic and it hits all classes. To give you an idea of the rise in numbers – two years ago the Kindergarten in town had two kids. Last year there were two kids, this year SIX kids and the preschool that feeds this particular Kindergarten has five kids. I hope you never have to experience it because it really sucks.
    And for what it’s worth, we send in our own treats for our child. If there is a birthday in the class I send in a special cupcake for my daughter to eat while the rest of the class parties. She’s got a box of fruit snacks for days there is a treat that I was unaware of. I would never want or expect an entire class to go out and buy expensive things to accomodate my child. That’s my job.

  88. And to Nancy, I just read your comment and it made me so sad. I’m dealing with this for a few years now and I’m much more ‘experienced.’ My daughter was diagnosed with food allergies when she was 18 months and it was such a scary time. Halloween was daunting to me at first but she’s so used to it now it’s no big thing. She gets dressed up just like all the other kids. She parties in class just like all the other kids (I just make sure to check all of the foods that are given out on the party plates and say yes or no to them). She goes trick or treating and gets lots and lots and lots of candy. She then gets to give that candy to her older cousins and she gets a few “safe” candies and then she lucks out more than the rest of the kids. She gets to cash in that candy and go to the toy store. It’s only fair to buy a Polly Pocket or a Power Ranger for them when they can’t get candy! (Oh yes, my 2 year old son was just diagnosed with a peanut allergy too – I didn’t mention that).Ice cream social at church? It takes a little planning but go along and have fun – bring a cooler and bring your own safe ice cream and toppings and enjoy the time.
    Family picinic? Same thing. We party away and if the food isn’t able to be checked then we bring something along for my daughter.
    My daughter is used to it. It takes planning and it gets upsetting but she’s living a normal life. Sure we don’t use the indoor park across from PB Loco in our mall but there’s lots of other stuff to do anyway.
    It will get easier. If YOU get the seriousness YOU will find ways around it to have your child live a normal and fun life.

  89. Although my children don’t have food allergies, my SIL and nephew do. I have seen one of my SIL’s anaphylactic reactions to nuts and have had to make the frantic drive to the ER. Her epipen buys her about 20 minutes to get to the hospital for further treatment. I can’t imagine how awful it would be for a small child to have an anaphylactic reaction at school and have to be transported by ambulance without a parent.On the other hand, I also have a 22 pound two year old who doesn’t eat very much. I don’t know what I would feed him in a “no dairy” environment. He has some yet-to-be-diagnosed issue that seems to go beyond “picky eater”. If I hadn’t seen anaphylaxis, it would definitely push my buttons to suddenly have a list of things I couldn’t send to school with him. As it is, his preschool has a no nut policy which is so ill-defined that it is only inconvenient and not protective.

  90. @ Tricia – Thanks for your post. I’m a rookie at this. Where on earth can you find safe ice cream? And I’m only asking for your own experience, it’s not like I’m legally binding you to anything – I always proceed with caution even after the most thoughtful of advice. I’ve been trying to make it at home and it hasn’t exactly been working well.

  91. For the folks with kids with a list of allergies (black pepper, etc), do you know this due to results from scratch tests or eliminations diets or ? I wonder because I wonder what (or if…) I should have allergy testing done on my son. Before my pregnancy I was allergic to mangos. During the pregnancy, I developed contact dermatitis reactions to some detergents, and had mysterious excema patches. When my son was about 3 months old, I began to have constant problems with hives, which I eventually realized was due to peanuts (one morning after my breakfast bagel smothered in peanut butter, my mouth and lips began to itch). Since then I’ve avoided peanuts and the hives and excema have cleared up, but I’ve also begun to react to pistachios and avocados.I’m still breastfeeding. Obviously, I’m not feeding my baby peanut butter, so I don’t know what kind of reaction he might have to peanuts. I do know that he seems to be fine with avocados (introduced to him before I began to react to them, he’s continued to eat them with no apparent problem). I don’t give him any mango, even though it’s considered a ‘first food’ where I live, just in case. I don’t know if I should have him allergy tested or not. My pediatrician doesn’t seem to really be very knowledgeable or even interested in the question. From the treats and cakes that are brought in to birthday parties at our estimulacion temprana classes (maybe like Mommy and me classes), for 6-12 months year olds, it doesn’t appear to me that folks are as concerned about when and what is introduced to their babies here in Mexico as in some other parts of the world.

  92. @anon today: You said: “cat19 – speaking as part of the contemporary medical community, another part of the comtemporary medical wisdom is that it is usually wisest to agree with parents when it doesn’t really matter and phrase things in ways that will make them go away happy.”Well, when I used the word intolerance with the pediatric gastroenterologist specializing in kids with multiple food reactions, whom we traveled across the country to see, he corrected me and told me my child’s reactions were “allergies” because they involved his immune system. I don’t think he corrected me to try to keep me happy. Why would it? What matters most to me is that my kid gets medical treatment that helps him to be healthy, and I try to use the terminology I’ve been told is correct by the specialists we’ve seen. I will continue to follow the lead of the specialists we’ve seen who told me to call them allergies.
    That said, if you want to call his reactions intolerances, feel free.

  93. @Lemon: before my son lost soy and coconut, we had good luck with making homemade ice cream with soy creamer or with coconut milk plus fruit or other flavorings. You can also do DariFree, which is a potato-based milk substitute. Rice milk can work but it’s pretty thin.There are also some fairly good commercial products (many soy based, a few with rice milk or coconut as the base) as ice cream subs out there, depending on how reactive the kid is and to what they are allergic.

  94. @ Diane D, yes, absolutely, allergies take a back seat when malnutrition is involved. And good point that an allergy would probably never get diagnosed in a malnourished child. But the statement that allergies are nearly unheard of in Africa really stuck with me. Poked around a little more, found this, from an article on plumpy nut.”While widespread distribution of a peanut-based product like Plumpy’nut could pose a danger to allergy-prone children in the United States, that is not a concern on the African continent.
    “Food allergy seems far less common in poor countries than in rich countries,” said Briend. “This well-known observation has been explained by different factors, but apparently, crowding and repeated exposure to infections seem to play a role.”
    The dearth of allergies and asthma in developing nations, and the rapid growth of these ailments in industrialized countries (registered peanut allergies in the United States doubled from 1997-2002), is largely attributed to the hygiene hypothesis, a topic addressed in an April 2002 article in Science magazine called “Allergy, Parasites and the Hygiene Hypothesis.”
    “The lack of intense infections in industrialized countries, owing to improved hygiene, vaccination and use of antibiotics, may alter the immune system such that it responds inappropriately to innocuous substances,” explained the article.
    “After several years of using this product,” said Briend, “and feeding several hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished patients with it, I never heard of a place where it was a real issue.”
    From
    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=2497593&page=1

  95. I have been coming back to this post all day, thinking of a way to say what I’m going to say. Here is my best attempt, and I apologize if I step on any toes. That is truly not my intention. The law guarantees a free, public education to all children. ALL children. Of course, we think of our special day class kids when we think of mainstreaming and IEPs and Least Restrictive Environment. But, in fact, this applies to ALL kids, not just the ones with the most “mainstream” disabilities. This includes GATE kids as well. This also includes children with severe food allergies.For the most part, I have been able to understand and empathize with all sides of the food allergy argument – except when terms such as “home schooling” start getting thrown around. Home schooling is NOT intended to be an alternative for children who cannot or do not slide into the typical “school” niche. It is a philosophical choice made by parents who believe that the schooling they can provide at home better matches their family values than the one being provided in the public system. At no time is it suggested as an alternative for children with special needs – whether the diagnosis is autism, asbergers, cerebral palsy, severe or mild retardation, or yes….GATE or even food allergies. In fact, it is against the law for schools to even suggest home schooling to families that have special needs children.
    I’m not going to bore you with the legalese….you can google IDEA and LRE and FAPE just as easily as I can. The truth is that these programs, while they have the best of intentions, still fall short of meeting the needs of all children. Schools refuse admission to students who do not live in the district (here in CA) who have IEPs simply because it is too expensive for them to accommodate them. Districts are barely getting the funding promised to them by the state and federal government for children that fall within their boundaries. Sadly, this impacts our students who come from low socio-economic families the most – their schools are often the least funded, with the least qualified teachers, and the most over-burdened with class size and issues that are prevalent in low socio-economic neighborhoods. The law guarantees a free and public education. Sadly, it does not guarantee a quality one in high achieving schools and districts. And yes, getting children into special placements at specialized schools is somewhat like breaking out of jail. The number of IEPs, the amount of documentation, the number of administrators necessary at the IEP to make that decision is staggering. Staggering. The law right now is accompanied by an inordinate amount of paperwork, checks and balances, and a lot of dead weight. It is a law with the best of intentions, but man is it dysfunctional.
    I have worked in schools where the special day kids are an afterthought. They do not appear on our rosters, so while our rosters might say we have 30 students, we actually have 32 or 34 depending on how many kids are mainstreamed in our classrooms. This can sometimes be problematic when space and books are an issue. For even the kids that are only mainstreamed for art, PE and music need a place to sit that is included with the rest of the class (not a table in the back by themselves) and a place to keep their materials. I have seen them forgotten when the class leaves to go on a field trip, missing class scheduled library time, computer lab, even PE. It is heartbreaking – as a parent and a teacher – to watch these children get disappointed time and again, and then pull themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with it becasue THAT is their reality.
    I have also worked in schools where the special day teachers and classroom teachers communicate daily, plan together and collaborate in a way that makes the mainstreaming almost seamless. It is a lot of work, and a true dedication to the idea of least restrictive environment. These kids flourish and grow, often surpassing the goals set for them in their IEPs. And it’s not just the mainstreamed students who benefit. All students learn how important it is to accommodate those with different needs than their own. At no time is it MORE appropriate to teach children empathy and respect for differences than at the preschool and elementary school level. This is when it solidifies for children, and what a wonderful opportunity and lasting impact it has for them when it’s done well.
    Regardless of what any child’s needs may be, schools are set up and intended to serve their clients – the children – first and foremost. All children…not just the “niche” students, but students with all kinds of diverse needs. It is their right to be included in all class events, outings, instruction, and social activities (including lunch and recess) and accommodated when necessary. Just like it is my right to post this long-winded post on Moxie’s blog. It is a fundamental right, not one we can pick and choose depending on how convenient it may be for the other students, teachers, parents or administrators. We are in the business of educating children. Of course, if a situation is not working for you and your family, you have the right to look for alternative placements. But you don’t have the right to suggest that others, who are trying to provide their children with as normal learning environment as possible, home school their children because it would be easier for everyone.
    This is more than just a food allergy issue. This is an issue of the fundamental right all children have to a free public education in this country.

  96. Ugh, sorry food-allergy-sufferers (or mostly just worriers, I’m guessing) — I’m definitely, positively, absolutely with Lolismum here.Obviously, this is an upper-middle-class phenomenon. When I was growing up, I didn’t know a single kid with a food allergy. In fact, peanut butter was THE staple source of protein for all class snacks and public school lunches for all of us free and reduced-lunch candidates. No problems. No anaphylactic shock. No deaths.
    I don’t think Lolismum was being inappropriate or rude or anything else like that. Isn’t this a forum for discussion? She’s merely reporting the attitudes of a ton of parents out there, and it’s useful to get some perspective.

  97. I don’t have an ice cream brand in mind right now, we had ice cream sundae’s for dessert on Friday and I haven’t gone food shopping. Our allergy is peanut/tree nut in this house and I’ve found several popular commercial brands that are nut free. I’ve also been known to call the 800 # on containers to double check.The Americans with Disabilities Act really covers people with food allergies also so if your school isn’t complying you really need to do some reading up to see your entitlements. We are the advocates for our children but sometimes we need to move mountains in order to get them the protection they need. It’s scary to send them off to school and hope they’re safe and okay when they’re just “normal” kids. And homeschooling them is just not the answer. They have to learn to live in this world alongside all of these hazards.

  98. @Julie, thank you for your post. I think you are right on about how mainstreaming benefits everyone. I actually had two kids in my kindergarten class who were mainstreamed (this was, um, more than 30 years ago). One had spina bifida and the other maybe had cerebral palsy- I just remember that she sat in a wheelchair and had to wear a brace. I remember them better than anyone else in that class. I even remember their names. I don’t remember any “problems” or “accommodations” that were made, although I am sure there were some. But I must have learned something from them, because years later, when a guy I met in college had spina bifida, I knew what it was- and I don’t remember ever meeting anyone else with spina bifida.And to the Nancy who was worried about “giving” her kids food allergies, I wouldn’t worry. I only worry a little bit because I have a strong history of allergies in my family. If you do not have a family history of allergies, the chances that your kid will get a food allergy are very small. Even with the family history, the chances that the allergy Pumpkin ends up with is a food one is small. So be aware of the possibility, but don’t stress about it. If you’ve already given your kids peanut butter and they didn’t react, chances are it will be fine if you give it again. The advice to hold off is based on very little solid evidence, and as one of the PPs mentioned, it may turn out to have been the absolute opposite of what we really should be doing- there are some studies that seem to indicate that early exposure is protective. There are others that say early exposure increases the risks of allergies. The science just isn’t that strong on this. (BTW, I am not a doctor, just a scientist mommy who had a personal reason to do some research- definitely talk to your doctor if you want advice for your family.)

  99. This post and the ensuing conversation have been with me all day and I couldn’t figure out why. But I think what I got to is this: our hard things leave us feeling so lonely. ‘Tis the nature of hard things I think. Parents of high needs/special needs/allergic children feel so alone. Parents of ‘regular needs’ kids who are overwhelmed by the regular hardness of life with kids feel all alone with their hard stuff too. And at the risk of speaking for lolismom inaccurately, the wife of a sick husband and a young child sounds like she is feeling pretty alone too. And let’s face it – feeling lonely rarely brings out the best in us.It reminds me of a time I was complaining to my friend about T.’s first vaccinations. I was panicking about the autism question and being so afraid. And then I caught myself – K.’s son was in the middle of cancer treatment for a Stage IV neuroblastoma and was having to choose treatment solutions that wouldn’t kill him and I was whining about immunizations. I apologized and was embarassed and K. so graciously replied, “A., the hardest thing you’ve ever done as a parent is the hardest thing you’ve ever done. Today yours is shots and mine is chemo. They’re both the hardest thing we’ve ever done and we’re doing our best.”
    I still cry remembering it.
    I guess my point is that we do better to remember how lonely it is to face hard things and there is no winner when we try to make it a contest of who’s stuff is harder. I’m surprised more people didn’t hear the loneliness of the hard stuff Lolismom is dealing with but then not because their own hard stuff is so… lonely, isn’t it?
    As we move through parenting together, I hope we find more moments to say to each other, “you’re not alone”. It’s why I spend so much time here to begin with, and I suspect why so many of you are so familiar – you’re here everyday to remember you’re not alone. Lonely maybe, but not alone.
    PS: @ Cloud (I think), the saying that I’ll one day trademark is “it’s not a problem if you hate the solution more”… That one and “it’s either a good time or a good story”. 🙂

  100. @meandmrbWe have had a series of “scratch” allergy tests performed by an allergist for our son. We started just after he was a year old. It was clear that he had food allergies: dark circles under the eyes, severe silent reflux, hives, exema, conjestion, woke up 9+ times a night. What was interesting, is that he was not allergic to what we thought. We thought soy and dairy (turns out he had intollerances to those) and strawberries. He is, in fact, allergic to egg white, egg yolk, sesame, garlic, black pepper, and cantaloupe. Unless your son has obvious symptoms I would not test although I would be careful (as it sounds like you are doing) with introducing new foods.
    We have become very active with food allergy issues; creating an emergency plan at daycare, a powerpoint presenation for all the teachers, etc. I am even working on a cookbook of “safe” recipes. Anyone reading this feel free to email me at “gina dot mendolo at gmail dot com” if you have any questions/need support/need egg-free recipes (I have great ones for brownies and for egg-free/soy-free/dairy-free veggie burgers).

  101. I’m sure one of the lovely moxie-ites has already said this, but I’m sure the baby just made a noise, so I’m going to hurry.re: dairy-free: Get thee some VEGAN snacks. They’re already dairy-free and really delicious.

  102. I’m very late to the party today, but I hope everyone can cut Lolismom a little more slack. I don’t think any parent would want to put anyone else’s child in a life threatening situation, but it really is incumbent upon the parent of the allergic child and the school to help the other parents out a bit. People who don’t have allergies or kids with allergies just don’t know what the alternatives are to peanut butter or dairy products or whatever and I don’t think it’s unreasonable of them to be frustrated when they get a blanket prohibition of entire groups of food without any assistance in how one goes about replacing said groups of food. I’m a bit tired and I don’t feel like I’m stating this well, so I apologize if anyone is put off by my comment.For example, at my daughter’s preschool, they have a blanket “no nut” policy. They’ve prohibited home made treats for birthdays and parties and have provided a list of acceptable items, which are all available at the regular grocery store. I don’t actually know if there are currently any kids with severe allergies at the school, but I do understand that they’ve implemented this policy because it is easier to do this than to deal with allergies on a case by case basis. However, it is understandably frustrating for parents who would prefer not to have their kids eating Oreos and Sunkist fruit snacks every time there’s a birthday in the class.
    I think parents of kids with food allergies sometimes forget that the other parents are not nearly as well educated as they are about the allergies they are dealing with. I’m sure the parents of kids with allergies would say that they absolutely do know other people are ignorant of their issues, but knowing that and helping the other parents to help you are different animals.
    I have a friend who has celiac disease and her children are both allergic to milk and eggs. To say that their family has some food restrictions is to put it mildly, but she is great about non confrontationally (is that even a word?) working things out with other parents. She’s done informal presentations on the kind of snacks that are commercially available (and yet, not chock a block with HFCS or other food additives) and she discreetly brings treats to parties that her kids can have so that they aren’t eating an apple while all the other kids have cake. In my experience at least, the other parents are happy to do what they can when they have an idea of what to do. Unfortunately, telling someone that they need to be nut free or dairy free or whatever doesn’t really give them the vaguest idea of what they should do.
    It’s such a difficult issue, and so fraught with emotion, that I think it is difficult for people to talk about calmly.

  103. Soylent Green. That is the answer to all our food problems.I can tell you exactly why there are more kids w/ severe food allergies nowadays: It’s because back in the day, babies and kids w/ severe allergies died. If a baby was deathly allergic to peanuts, he probably died. Mum filled newborns bottle w/ straight cows milk, he drank it, and died. That is the sad, harsh truth of a time before epi pens & scratch tests.
    Several interesting things have been brought up in this discussion. One is the socio-economic factor. I worked in a daycare in a low income area of my city for a couple of years. As far as I know, we had one peanut allergy and one severe egg allergy. Our food service providers did not use peanut or pork products, but those were the only restrictions. One of our snacks was a hard-boiled egg. This was coming from a well-known school lunch provider. They stopped providing Little Debbie snacks b/c of peanut processing, but sent all kinds of dairy and eggs. The boy w/the egg allergy brought his own food. ANYWAY, I think that why we dont see a prevalence of allergies in lower socio-economic circles is b/c low income is generally associated w/ low education. Many people, if Baby Jane is getting eczema and a diaper rash will just assume she has sensitive skin and slather her in cream. Many would never think of a food allergy. If it werent for the internet, I would have never known that dairy sensitivity could manifest as eczema. Before coming to Ask Moxie, how many of us had even known that you could be allergic to fructose? I didnt even think that was possible! Well, most of my school parents did not own computers or use the internet. If Johnny was a little hyper, they told him to knock it off or theyd beat his butt. They never said “Hmm, I wonder if a sensitivity to corn is interfering w/ Johnnys ability to concentrate?” We assume that every parent thinks like we do, but the truth is, John Q Average probably knows diddly squat about food allergies/sensitivities. And, unless their child goes into shock or gets hives, probably doesnt care. With our own baby, dh and I practice elimination communication. She no longer poops in her diaper, but on occasion has had a v small patch of diaper rash. I wondered how on earth a potty baby could get a diaper rash, so I asked on the internet & discovered that it could be an allergy ring. Never heard of that before! And since, if she is allergic to something, that has been the only symptom, Im not going to do anything about it. It has only come on occasion and does not bother her, so Im not letting it bother me. Again, though, were she conventionally diapered & I did not have the internet, Id think nothing of her getting the occasional rash. People with money and education have the time and the means to gather information.
    Re: Plumpy Nut: It also contains powdered cows milk! I love to toss that in the face of all the “milk is the devil” people. Milk is saving lives. Some kids probably are deathly allergic to it. However, it is potentially saving millions of lives, so I doubt those supplying it are overly concerned about the allergens.
    A few of the babies on my birth board are allergic to dairy, so I learned some new things. Of interest, some Gerber baby foods, such as stage one pears, contain dairy. McDonalds French fries contain dairy. It is disputed whether or not the burger meat contains dairy to up the protein content. So, here is what I am wondering: Many of you w/ children who have severe food allergies, your kids are v young. What happens when they get to elementary school? I have seen that many are making adjustments, which is reasonable. What about jr high? High school? College? Work? For children who cannot touch dairy, it is mandated by the government that public school lunch comes w/ a milk, so milk protein is all over the cafeteria. For a child who is severely allergic to things w/ fragrance like hairspray, do you tell a group of 15-yr-old boys and girls not to use hairspray, cologne, or scented deodorant and expect them to follow that? Because theyre not going to. In a high school with 3,000 students, what is going to happen then? I am by no means asking this to be snarky, I am serious. Controlling the food within a daycare or elementary school is absolutely nothing compared to the rest of the world. It seems like the severely allergic wave (or whatever you want to call it) has not aged out of elementary school yet, so what is the next step?
    In any case, avoiding allergens in food for one school lunch per day, as a pp posted in a list, is not that hard. I think we get all up in arms b/c so much food that is processed for our convenience is what contains the allergens. A soynut butter and jelly sandwich, a cold fruit and cold veg, and water, juice, or kool-aid for lunch is not really a big deal for a kid to eat every day. Tomato sandwiches. Cold pancakes, fried chicken, or spaghetti. Hot soup & a hot dog in a thermos. Moms get so up in arms about there not being fridges or microwaves ~ Hello! They werent there when we were going to school, either! That is why you buy an insulated lunch box, duh!

  104. @Julie, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.***
    @P: I get it, I truly do, why some parents whose kids don’t have allergies are overwhelmed by being asked to change their kids’ school or daycare food choices. I get it particularly because I’ve had to do it, more than once, as my child developed more and more food reactions. I was very motivated to do it because it was my child’s health. If you had seen, when he was four months old, the eczema that looked like chemical burns all over his face and the infected impetigo all over his head from scratching the eczema, you too might have been motivated. When we started our journey of specialist in response to that reaction, one that went from one small red spot to his entire face in two days, my husband and I were so scared that he would be scarred for life all over his face that we did not dare ask our pediatrician or the dermatologist about scarring. We were too afraid to hear the answer.
    But once we pulled his allergic foods from my diet and put him temporarily on steroids, he began to heal, and healed well and without scarring.
    I do get that it’s confusing to people that virtually all kids used to eat peanuts and not get allergies. I do get that it’s tempting to suggest that it’s all upper- or upper-middle-class kids–so maybe , you think, it’s just kids with parents with too much time and money on their hands who get diagnosed. But as a parent of a kid with allergies and a friend to many families with kids with far more life-threatening allergies than my kid’s, I hear that point as somehow questioning the validity of these kids’ allergies. Perhaps that’s not how it is intended. But it resonates that way for me.
    I’m sure that there are parents who say “my kid can’t eat x, or is allergic to y,” and they’re exaggerating or have no idea what that should mean. And I hate that some of those people make it harder for me to get people to take my son’s food restrictions seriously.
    The difficulty is that you don’t know up front from the statement “my kid is allergic” which kid really could die or end up hospitalized or, as is most common with my son with most of his “problem” foods, “just” end up crying in pain for four or five hours in the middle of the night unable to sleep.
    So until you know, please, try to assume that the person does know what they’re talking about, and respect that food restriction. If it is problematic for you to provide food for your child under those restrictions, try and approach that problem communally, and ask that other parents and teachers work with you to find a solution.
    But please consider that when you approach that problem of feeding your child by saying another child is just too inconvenient to be in public school, or that another child should just risk whatever reaction they might have and use an epi, it does not help to build a sense that you are willing to work with us to find solutions. It does not help us to feel any sense of trust that you care about our kids’ safety.
    I can see how hearing that your kids’ lunch might hurt another child is so stressful that it’s tempting to turn that stress into anger (it’s too much to ask!), into denial (how could that hurt anyone? milk is wholesome!), into resentment at another thing stuck on your plate to worry about when almost every parent has plenty to deal with in helping their own kids.
    But we’re not going to come up with any better solutions without being able to talk to each other and work together.
    A previous poster talked about how in her community the local bakery made allergy-safe treats and the whole community pulled together to make it both manageable and safe for all kids. That sounds blissful and idyllic.
    ***
    On the miracle of epis and their limitations: I debated tracking down the list of food allergy fatalities and severe reactions from my favorite allergy support website to post a few links: the 7-year old child who died from hot chocolate mix her Brownie troop made; the 31-year old lawyer who died from touching food fried in peanut oil before he had a chance to give himself his epi; the 9-year old who accidentally drank his sister’s cow milk thinking it was soy milk and despite getting an epi he died. Or the 4-year old in Australia who died when the daycare provider apparently stuck the epi pen into her own finger by mistake.
    Or the dr who took what he thought was a safe nut-free cookie. But it had been touched with a spatula that had touched peanut butter cookies, and it took five doses of epinephrine before the reaction resolved.
    Every time my caller ID says daycare is calling me, I worry that it is a call to say my child has had a reaction. I never want to get that call. I cannot confidently say that it’s guaranteed that it will work, that it will be given, that it will be given quickly. No matter how much training you give people, often they hesitate; they worry about hurting your kid; they tell themselves it’s not a reaction. When my son was one and had anaphylaxis and his face swelled up so much he was unrecognizable, I hesitated until the nurse on the pediatrician’s phone line told me to give the epi and call 911. In a crisis it is so tempting to go into denial, telling yourself that this cannot be this child’s life at risk, that this must not be that serious.
    But it can be, and it is that fear that you hear in many of our voices, in our anger and worry that other parents will not help us to keep our kids alive and healthy.
    Fear and anger and resentment from parents with food allergic kids; fear and anger and resentment from parents without food allergic kids. None of that is conducive to open conversation.
    I do respect the right of all of you to say these types of precautions are burdensome.
    And I want to apologize if my posts today have not been as civil and respectful as I would usually aim for; I do hope that those of you who feel that this respect for food-allergic kids’ safety is out of control and they should be homeschooled can try to stretch to understand that many parents’ requests for accommodations truly come from a deep desire to keep our kids healthy–not from a disregard for the inconvenience factor. There may be obnoxious parents out there, but some of us truly work hard to be moderate and reasonable and to ask as little as possible.
    Sadly, sometimes the minimum necessary to keep a food-allergic kid safe is burdensome and inconvenient.
    I hope someday we find better alternatives.

  105. And for the record, the epipen is not 100% reliable. What if you get a faulty batch, what if it has been exposed to light or heat and has reduced effectiveness? I ask myself these questions everytime I come in contact with new food, food that I have been quaranteed does not contain any nuts what so ever. I have been fortunate so far in that I have only had to use my epipen once in the last 10 years, but they were the questions going thru my head at the time.

  106. @amy, the keeping talking thing is huge. I can’t count the number of people who have said, either ‘wait, that sounds like MY kid!’ (and who have taken the trouble to track me down later and say ‘it was my kid! thanks!’) or ‘oh, yeah, did you see Dr. X? I’d recommend Dr. Y instead. What therapies are you using?’ or even just ‘I hear ya, we have a totally different set of issues, but I hear ya.’Figuring out when the energy/interest is there, or is not there, isn’t too hard. Strangely, I’ve yet to encounter a stranger who isn’t at least engaged and curious, and yet will get glazed looks and clear resistance to roll eyes from some family members. Granted, they’ve heard it more than strangers, too. It is probably a benefit to have something going on that most people haven’t even heard of (not so fun when it is the doctors who haven’t heard of it, mind) – no preconception. No ‘oh, you’re one of THOSE parents’ – or they’ll try to box it in, classify it: “like an allergy” or “like lactose intolerance” or “like celiac” – something they know, have made assumptions about already, based opinions on from media, friends, gossip, family. I think the entrenched opinion thing is much harder to face, because people become fondly attached to their opinions, and refuse to actually listen to anything that disagrees. It is hard to find intellectual honesty where opinion has already formed, especially negative opinion (though I’m equally uncomfortable with unfounded awe – I do this stuff because I must, just like other parents do it because they must, just like you’d do it if you had to, also. Because nobody else will, if I don’t. Period. No awe, I am just you in an alternate universe.).
    So yes, keep talking.

  107. Okay.My brother and I have had various “special needs” growing up, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, but to be clear from the very start, allergies were not among them.
    At the age of 6, my brother had open heart surgery, and a subsequent stroke.
    And he was back, in a very regular first grade class, less than 6 weeks later. Yes, there was rampant communication with teachers. Yes, they made sure that the PE teachers knew. But the very best thing my parents did for him was *not* make him out to be a special case. He got letters and a teddy bear while he was actually in the hospital. With the stroke, we didn’t know what was affected, and what wasn’t – but that didn’t mean he didn’t have to at least *try* everything (turns out that the only real effect was that he can’t write in cursive, and his handwriting never progressed. An odd quirk to explain, but understandable).
    I think the school system up here (I’m in Canada), really got it right. The kids with lots of extra needs went to a separate school. Whether it’s an extreme set of allergies, Cerebral Palsy, FAS, they had an entirely separate school which was far more equipped to handle such things, at the kids’ own pace. At this school, repetitions of grades weren’t abnormal, neither were being strange, and because it was a fairly small community, the kids weren’t ever treated as different by anyone in the neighborhood, they just went to the other school – no big deal.
    Moreover, if you’re at the other end of the spectrum, which my brother and I are, you get sent to yet another school, better equipped to handle your “specialty” – the ability to learn faster and in a broader sense than the others. Really, the kids who went to enrichment were teased way, way, WAY more, because we were actually bussed out of town, had later school hours, and more work to do in general.
    I do not think streaming is a bad thing. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say “This kid needs special treatment” and then go about bloody doing it. And I’m grateful that the area I lived in had these capabilities. I think there’s far too high an emphasis placed on conformity and making sure your child gets the same as everyone else, even while making sure that everything else is “different.” – there are countries which are setting up separate classrooms for kids with severe allergies, and I think this is a good thing. The advent of standardized testing actually enables this – you aren’t in a situation, which you might have had before, where your child by virtue of his/her specialness isn’t learning at all the same thing or is being treated as a second class citizen.
    Do I believe that all parents of children with allergies are whiners? No. Some allergies, reactions, diseases, and conditions are indeed a matter of life and death. Do I believe that that all parents of children with allergies should be given extra special treatment? No. It marginalizes the kids who are “normal” and puts them in a situation where they will (and do) act out in order to get attention, thus leading them to be diagnosed with something “special.”
    There is moderation in all things, and thank you again, dear leader, for making us all truly think.

  108. @P and others-I think food allergies are like some other conditions that were simply under-diagnosed when we were kids. I never heard about allergies growing up either. Then again, I have a very vivid memory of my best friend Christine throwing up all over the place and getting some HORRIBLE red things on her skin (hives?) after sleeping over and having some of my Mom’s blueberry pancakes.
    So…this isn’t just some made-up crap, and it isn’t just rich kids, and the problem existed 30 years ago, too. My friend Christine, for example, is one of 5 kids in a family with one working parent.
    Basically, I am never impressed with the “this wasn’t a concern when I was a kid…so it doesn’t exist now” argument. People say the same thing about drinking and smoking when pregnant, like “my Mom smoked a pack a day when she was pregnant and, gee, I’m fine!” It is just ignorant, and ignores the basic idea of scientific progress.

  109. I had to stop reading b/c I hear the baby waking (and yelling). Just wanted to point out that in my state, parents can *only* bring class treats if they are from a store. So you can’t make cookies and bring them in for your child’s birthday, for example.If another parent is bringing in a bday treat, I bring in something for my daughter. Hopefully she’ll grow out of this in the next few years–the allergist thinks she might. fingers crossed the baby doesn’t have it too.
    BTW, I’ve had luck bringing in the ingredients for dairy free/egg free cake and then the kids make it themselves.

  110. I find this all so…. interesting. My darling 18 month old son was just excluded from the preschool we enrolled him in due to his egg allergy. This was after our allergist assured us he would be fine in an environment where eggs were present, that if he got eggs on his hands he might get hives but he would be fine so baking wasn’t an issue, etc… Nope, they didn’t want to deal with it. And since it was private religious school, the Americans with Disablities Act doesn’t apply. So he is bored out of his mind as the only child in his daycare situation. We are looking for alternatives but we are unlikely to find anything until next fall. And that sucks for him. On the bright side, I am really glad we found out how truly awful the school adminstration was before he started there. Sigh…

  111. I’m 35, from a poor, undereducated, rural background, and had diagnosed food allergies as a child (roughly 4yo). I was diagnosed via back patch test, and remember it quite clearly – it was a slice of hell.I also had a host of ENT problems and ended up with adenoids out and tubes in not long after the allergy testing.
    I took allergy shots once a week as a kid, from the age of 4 or so until…geez, I don’t even know how long I took them, but it was a long damned time. Needles don’t faze me now, though!
    So how did a shoeless bumpkin end up with an allergy diagnosis in 1977? I had a mother who loved me and did not rest until she figured out what was making me so effing sick all the time. She had been a sickly kid, too, and wanted to spare me the same childhood she had.
    So I have a lot of empathy for the parents of kids who are ‘out there’ in one way or another. I don’t mind making special accommodations whenever I’m alerted to a problem; it’s just not that big of a deal to me to be a decent human being for the benefit of a child. There *are* kids with epi-pens in our preschool (I only know this because I happened to glance at the list in the lunchroom one afternoon), but we’ve never been asked to leave anything out of our son’s lunch.

  112. Coming really late to the party to mention one little thing about allergy testing.Around age 30, I had two borderline anaphylactic reactions to almonds and one to pecans. I had allergy testing (blood and scratch) that “revealed” I was allergic to ALL nuts, to celery, and to salmon. I stopped all nuts for several years, but then began to reintroduce (accidentally and eventually on purpose) all nuts except for almonds and pecans. I can even eat almonds (again accidentally only) without having a reaction.
    I’ve never had a reaction to celery, the other nuts, or salmon – I can only conclude that the testing is far from 100% accurate, but it can be helpful in isolating possible problems.
    So, a long-winded way of saying that allergy testing is NOT the end-all-be-all answer to the situation.

  113. Oh my…Thank you all, I feel as if I have learned a lot reading this post and the comments. I have to admit (and I am embarrassed to say this) when I began with the post I thought that the restrictions were kind of painful. Then, as I continued to read a few things struck me 1. Most of the food suggestions were wonderful, I can send my son to daycare with celery or raisins for snacks (I would rather he not eat oreos though). 2. It must be incredibly difficult and isolating to be the child with the special need. 3. It must be equally difficult to be the parent of the child with the special needs. I know my heart skips a beat when my phone rings and my daycare providers number shows up on the caller ID…I can only imagine what it is like for parents of children with life threatening allergies.Really, thank you, if and when I encounter this in real life I will be better prepared to approach it with some level of grace. Maybe I can even help make things easier for the child/parent. Who knows what special needs each of us will have in the future.

  114. Lemon, Ask your doctor to write you a prescription for Benadryl, if there is one of some kind. I was a preschool teacher and we couldn’t administer non-prescription medicenes of any kind but we could administer prescription meds. I hope that helps. The school would have to administer a prescription.

  115. @ Karma, “Oh hell no!! There will be absolute hell to pay. “What do you think happens when parents make a mistake? We *all* make mistakes, and even parents who read labels rigorously make mistakes, or assume a product is fine because it was fine before, but now suddenly the manufacturer has changed one ingredient. I’m so glad to see you’re more interested in helping the community make a difference instead of just rushing to place (hypothetical) blame.
    @Tricia – “The Americans with Disabilities Act really covers people…you really need to do some reading up to see your entitlements.”
    This bothers me one some level – isn’t this exactly what lolismum is upset about? The sense of entitlement? There are DEFINITELY precautions that should be taken, and the whole community needs to work together. We’re in a new place with all these allergies – what *are* we as parents of special needs children entitled to?

  116. Came back to add that after howmanyever years of allergy shots, adenoidectomy, and just plain growing up, I remained allergic only to poison ivy and its relations (including mango). I’m not sure which of those three things was more responsible than the others, if any one thing was.strugi is very right – none of us knows what the future holds, either for us or our children.

  117. This is so timely for me. I’m late to the comments because life has been overwhelming this week (and it’s only Tuesday!), but wow, the timing couldn’t be better.I took my daughter (22 months) on a tour of a Mothers’ Day Out/Preschool program on Monday. While she was exploring the playroom and interacting with the other kids and the teachers, I was quizzing the program director about anything and everything I could possibly think of.
    At this particular school (MDO until 3’s, then 3’s through Kindergarten), you pack your own lunch and snacks. (It is quite common in our town to have all meals prepared in-house so as to avoid all outside foods.)
    “What are the food restrictions?” I asked. “Peanut butter …?”
    “None,” she replied. “We don’t have any allergies at this point” (!! with a hundred kids in the school??) “and if they crop up, we’ll deal with it then.”
    I will admit that I was EXTREMELY relieved, because we love peanut butter. Also, I hate shopping for food and I hate cooking and putting meals together, so the thought of having to do extra work made me grumpy.
    Now after reading all of the comments here, I just kinda feel like a schmuck.
    Lots of good information in this conversation – I’m really impressed with the info and saddened by some of the experiences that you guys have shared. All of the autism and ADD and allergies and whatnot that we just didn’t seem to have in the 70’s but now all seem to be happening in crazy, scary proportions is just mind-boggling to me. Whether or not there are true increases in the rates versus perceived differences, the whole thing remains really creepy to me.
    Bottom line for me: I want my village.

  118. @meandmrbJust FYI, many many people in hawaii are allergic to mangoes, some to the point where they cannot even walk past a tree without breaking out in hives. Apparently mangoes are from the poison oak /sumac family and the sap (which can get aerated and got on your skin just from walking near) causes big hives to people who are sensitive to it.

  119. @Mom of One, the ADA can be used effectively WITHOUT messing withe everyone else. Accessibility and access don’t have to be awful experiences. The people who jump to ADA automatically might just happen to be the types most likely to demand without problem-solving, but if ‘regular’ folks call on it because they qualify, that whiff of entitlement might go away a bit. It’s no worse than demanding that girls be allowed to play sports and do metal shop, is it? Oh, the screams of horror about that one when I was a kid. My sister, in SHOP? I mean, what will they ask for next? The boys shouldn’t be asked to accommodate a girl in there – she’ll be needing their help, distracting them from their work, taking up too much of the teacher’s time because, well, she’s a girl. Duh.It really is no different. Yes, my mom had a sense of entitlement – she felt her daughters had both a legal and moral right to take whatever classes they damn well felt like. So she pushed, made a stink, made the school change their rules, threatened to sue if they didn’t (because they dragged their feet). I still remember my mom’s suppressed glee when at a back-to-school program, my sister’s work in metal shop was displayed as one of the top efforts. Ha. I took wood shop, when I went, and by then a third of the students were girls, and the best student in the class was a girl (yes, she took up most of the teacher’s time, but she was turning end posts for the bed she was making… she made herself an entire bedroom set in a semester. I made a desk set and a bird house and took my C and ran. Not that I did better in sewing or cooking… then, anyway).
    It really isn’t different. The people who leap first are the loudest, most likely. But the ADA is there for a reason, just as Title Nine is. The more people who use it effectively, the less it seems weird, and the more useful accommodations start being the norm (instead of the unusual, and often cobbled-together and less-pleasant ones). Just ask any architect about the early implementations of ramps and access… ug-lee. But now that everyone is using it, it is integrated into design more often. Ramps may become features rather than add-ons. The features become useful for others that didn’t expect it – like moms with strollers, you know when you find a good ramp, yes? And doors wide enough to get through with a diaper bag and a stroller? The same will eventually be true with these other issues – we’ll wear them in, they’ll start being a) normal, and b) much better thought-out, and c) repeatable. Less a burden, and in some cases, more useful.
    Our preschool has made a bonus out of the nut-free thing. They pre-design their snack schedule, and cycle the parents who buy snack for the whole class. They send out a list – including brands where it matters – of healthy snacks that are safe for the ones who have safety issues with food. It’s mainly carrots and hummus, bananas, celery, cereal, corn chips and salsa, and so forth. And no, my kids can’t eat most of it, but it covers the emergency level stuff completely. I send in our backup snacks for our kids, and we’re done. No issues for the other parents, and bonus, kids are trying out things they might not try at home, because everyone in class is eating it. Lunches are still on our dime, but the snacks lists help guide some of the options there, too.
    Anyway, that’s probably my last thought on the subject. It isn’t so much entitlement if it is a matter of equal access and value, is it? (Though I also don’t mind the idea of having cluster schools that have better programs for people with the more severe categories of issues, at least as a mainstreaming access point – having gone to a school that was a transitional school for the hearing impaired, working to integrate those who wished to and could into standard schools. It was a great experience, and I was glad to be part of it. Good education, there, too.)

  120. I may be the only person still reading, and I haven’t commented on this thread yet although I’ve read every post.I’m wondering about Halloween and remembered my sister last year telling me about a boy who was so disappointed with what he got from her because it was another thing he wasn’t able to eat. I know many parents have navigated Halloween very well, but I was wondering if some of you with kids who have the more common allergies (nuts/milk) could suggest some treats that would be okay for the kids?

  121. I’m late to this as Ike still has our internet… but this is so timely.My son has a visual integration/processing disability which affects his performance from math worksheets to handwriting. This is small potatoes compared to what some people have, but his continued inability to do 100 math facts in 5 minutes (as an example) when the rest of the class finishes quickly creates anxiety that spills over into other areas of his school day. The school is notoriously reluctant to accommodate (and from my research it appears that as a parochial school without federal funding, they are not obligated to accommodate). Ugh. So, we are in the throes of trying to decide what to do. He’s in therapy for the disability, I’ve listed ways his teacher can help him, I try to give him coping strategies… but I feel so sorry that the process of school is so hard for him when the content is clearly so easy.

  122. @m, we buy everything off them at premium rates. My kids all value cash money, LOL!We also trade in for safe treats, with a general (not absolute) maximum of thirty treats (because so far we’ve found that thirty works pretty well, unless there’s some kind of bonanza on something they can eat). Other stuff is a nickel, dime, or quarter an item. Including dum-dums and penny candy. Bigger the item, bigger the payout.
    Miss M, whose Halloween list is the most limited (smarties and sweet tarts, almost exclusively) has loaded up her piggy bank each year with a good haul of cash.
    She also likes pencils, by the way. But some kids find those booooring.

  123. @m–if you want to do candy, some varieties of DumDum lollipops (the ones without stuff in the center, no gum or whatever) are free of the top-8-allergens. Check the label, as it should mention that it’s free of tons of stuff or say made in a dedicated facility.

  124. Thanks for the suggestions cat19 and hedra. I’ll definitely keep both the lollis and pencils in mind. I know that last Halloween I remember seeing some mini-chocolate bars that said ‘peanut free’ but I don’t know if parents of nut-alergic kids would trust that enough. I don’t know if I would.

  125. Sorry to be chiming in so late…The first year my daughter was able to trick or treat, I brought a few little treats to several of the neighbors we knew best and asked if they would mind dropping them in my daughter’s basket so that there would for sure be a few treats that she could have without problems. That way my daughter didn’t feel left out but my neighbors weren’t inconvenienced. It actually worked out that in the years since, each of those neighbors has very sweetly gone out of their way to have something “Chloe safe” on Halloween, which means a lot to me.
    I always try to have allergy free treats at our house too – I’m sure we’re not the only family dealing with allergies – but I try to have things on hand that kids will find appealing no matter what.
    For candy, we usually have Smarties or dum-dums. We also usually have non candy items that I can pick up inexpensively at the party store – stickers, pencils, erasers, teeny bottles of bubbles, party pack sized tubs of playdough, super balls – that sort of thing. I usually have two baskets – one for toddlers/preschoolers and one for older kids, so that the second and third graders don’t feel like they are getting “baby stuff.”
    For all of the people who don’t think food allergies are serious, my five year old daughter has been hospitalized twice after exposure to dairy – once for five days. And the daughter of a friend of mine went into shock at 6 months after trying cows milk based formula for the first time and actually had to be resuscitated in the ambulance en route to the hospital. I don’t think I can even begin to explain the terror I felt when I first sent my daughter to preschool. I spent the first several months just waiting for the phone to ring with the news that she was being rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, that never happened, but I wouldn’t wish the fear of it happening on anyone.
    I do think something that makes this whole situation more difficult for everyone is the fact that some people use the term “allergy” very loosely, which has the unfortunate effect of making people not take allergies very seriously. Because of other people who don’t let their children eat various things because it might give them a tummy ache, people don’t realize that if my daughter eats dairy or soy, she might STOP BREATHING. So, while I do think there has definitely been a rise in the number of kids with food allergies, I also think there has been a rise in the number of people who say their kids have food allergies, when perhaps, that’s not truly the best or most accurate description.
    I do not think that food allergies discriminate based on income levels. The WIC program actually provides elemental formula for babies with protein allergy whose parents would not otherwise be able to afford it. But most babies outgrow milk and soy allergies by age one or two and of the ones who don’t, most outgrow it by the time they start school. The kids who are still allergic in kindergarten and elementary school are just a small number of the ones who had issues as babies. So maybe that makes the allergy population seem skewed – maybe there’s a higher incidence of OLDER allergic kids? I don’t know.
    At my daughter’s school,everyone brings their own lunch and no one is allowed to share lunches. My daughter and the one other child in her class with an allergy have their own lunch trays with their names on them, so there is always a buffer between them and the lunch table at lunch time. Snack duty is shared among the families at school. Each family provides snack for one week, twice a year. Snack is supposed to be fruit or veggies with some sort of carbohydrate and some sort of protein (usually hummus, cheese or nut butter since there are currently no nut allergic kids at the school.) The snack family also provides a gallon of milk. My daughter has a container of rice milk at school with her name on it so she doesn’t feel left out when the other kids have milk and she brings her own cup. She also has a box of “safe” crackers in the school kitchen so on the days that snack isn’t safe for her to eat, she eats her own crackers, plus whatever fruit or veggie is offered that day. This year (her kindergarten year) will be her third year at this school and this has worked out really well for us and it takes the pressure off of the other families.
    I also keep a stash of “safe” chocolate cupcakes in our freezer and send her to school with one in a baggie whenever there’s a party so she can have a treat too, and doesn’t have to watch all of the other kids eat cake while she eats an apple (we do this for birthday parties too.)
    We pack a snack for my daughter whenever we go anywhere – that way, no one ever has to feel inconvenienced by her needs. I always try to make sure that her/our problem doesn’t become everyone’s problem.
    As for “special” snacks being expensive and inconvenient, they don’t have to be. Most little kids love raisins or grapes, for example – you can get those at any store, they aren’t expensive and they aren’t a typical allergen.
    Hope this helps!

  126. I am a public school teacher as well as mom to a kindergartener with a peanut and penicillin allergy. I carry Benadryl and an Epi at all times, and my son wears a Med ID bracelet.I just had to add a couple of points:
    1. An epi-pen may not necessarily prevent death in the case of a severe reaction. It just temporarily stabilizes the blood pressure. Even with proper and timely administration, an individual can still die, despite receiving professional medical care.
    2. If you have never seen the needle from an Epi, they are pointed metal tubes that are thick and strong enough to puncture muscle tissue. An overdose can cause “brain hemorrhage” as a side effect. Not exactly preventative medicine.
    I wish my son’s condition wasn’t called an “allergy.” The term is so misleading. People seem to think of itchy watery eyes and runny noses. It would be more appropriate to call it a “deathergy.”
    If I could make it go away, I would!

  127. I think there is a point where the families of kids with allergies have to be the ones to take the child home for lunch or have them eat separately.I know children with peanut allergies.
    I know children with dairy allergies.
    I know children with soy allergies
    I know a child whose allergic to all these things, as well as a lot of fruits (kiwi, strawberry, orange, etc).
    I know gluten intolerent children.
    And I won’t even go into the developmental difficulties some of the kids face, often compounded by junk food (or so many people think)
    They all live in the same area. Say they end up in the same school. What the heck are all the other children supposed to do? Not eat? Because that list of ‘no nos’ wipes out a heck of a lot of food options for little people, and those that are left can be quite expensive and difficult to track down, something most people don’t have time or money for, especially when it’s not even for their own family.
    ‘Normal’ (foodwise) young kids need protein and fats in their diets; fruits and veg, while to be encouraged generally, in large amounts only serve to fill a child up and prevent them from getting the fats and protein intake they need to keep growing and for brain development. Trying to accommodate absolutely every child’s food allergies, when the lists only seem to be growing, has to be considered unreasonable at a certain point. It just does.
    And I believe the reason why you don’t see these food allergens in poor or ‘minority schools’ as someone called it, is because the kids don’t grow up in sterile, pristine environments where there hands and all the surfaces and toys they touch are constantly being scrubbed with antibacterials. I suspect we’ve created a lot of these problems for ourselves by being ‘too clean’ and not exposing our kids to enough germs while they’re babies.
    I’m sympathetic, but at a certain point, the other side has to acknowledge the realities of accommodating every little thing, because these things seem to be covering lots and lots of things these days.

  128. I’m appalled at some of the comments I’ve read hear. I thought we’d left school segregation behind long ago. Disgusting.Do you think these children ASK for these conditions? Do you think their parents do? Many parents of kids will allergies live in fear every day their child is in school for fear that an accident of some sort will happen and they’ll get a call that their child had to be rushed to a hospital.
    Education is a RIGHT for ALL children – no matter what their medical condition. Perhaps if you have a serious issue with the school program, you should keep YOUR child home – many parents can’t afford to stay home and homeschool a child because YOU have a problem with a special needs kid in your kid’s classroom.
    I think we’re all forgetting something here – allergies and special needs were present in kids when we were in school and we all adapted just fine. Sure, they might be more prevelent today, but why should any kid be denied the same great school experience we had? Don’t we want for our children what we had or better?

  129. I know I am commenting late. But thank you for this post. It is hard packing snack and lunch for a child on a restrictive diet. but the consequences are a lot harder. And somedays it is scary to wonder what is happening at school bc it is not like we can control everything even though we do try. And one drop of gluten or casein will set my little boy or many kids like him with ASD back, way back. To give a few examples – it is not just the food they ingest but many of our kids can’t tolerate wheat in soaps (who ever knew there was wheat in soap), nor can they tolerate the wheat used in many everyday stickers. In fact it can send some kids into seizures and not just “typical” autistic behavior. so thank you for asking people to be a little tolerant our our little ones’ diets.xo

  130. So here is a goofy question: How would one go about geittng something like this started in our city? I don’t believe there is anything around the MPLS/St. Paul area. I believe in this cause so very much and always appreciate the posts from Kelly and all the readers. This is our first time of ever having to worry about food allergies. My son is only 19 months old, and it is hard having to follow him around every where in public to make sure no one shoves a cookie at him (egg and peanut allergies). And I know it is only going to get worse. I feel like pinning a sign on him that reads Don’t feed me . Blessings to you all!

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