Sending a Child With Food Allergies Off to School
Written by Daniella Knell of Smart Allergy-Friendly Education
Recently returned from a weekend getaway which was much needed by all! Myself included. Am I the only one who has difficulty unplugging from it all? No phones, computers, texting… well, maybe a DVD player. And two movies… ONLY two. As much as we love to travel, I’m a strong believer in being prepared for the unexpected. Travel time can be one of those questionable events.
3 1/2 hours later, we began settling in for our weekend retreat. As usual, we picked a spot far from other campers. We had the sent of pines all around us. The shade from aspens. Just the right amount of breeze blowing and a fabulous setup for our newly purchased hammock.
Hour one. BORED. The kids didn’t have any of their usual escapes handy. It appears they need time to decompress just as much as we do. An hour later, they were catching Swallowtail and Skipper butterflies with nets and bare hands, wearing out their new puppy (a hypoallergenic, absolutely adorable Cairn Terrier), and happily discovering a hidden path to our own private fishing hole. Double perfection.
The past few weeks have been incredibly busy. Family for 10 days and preparation in the middle of it all for my second national telephone workshop with Kristin Beltaos, owner of A Gift of Miles. This successful ‘Back to School’ workshop was an incredible learning experience for me.
I realized how much more I needed to better prepare myself, my son and the people who would now be taking care of him on a daily basis. Prep for my daughter’s allergies had been a cake walk. My son’s allergies can be life-threatening. This was a bit different. Or was it?
What better way to really think things through than to remove yourself from the daily chaos of all other distractions. The chattering squirrels woke me in the morning. The stream lulled me to sleep. We saw constellations clearly and remarked how well we saw the Big Dipper. We told stories and caught up on personal details we had missed in the busyness of the past few weeks. We went to bed way too late and slept in. And I slowed down. Finally.
Having children with food allergies can be overwhelming if one lets it be. But here we were, in the mountains far away if something happened. We were prepared for 3 days in the middle of nowhere. Benadryl and epipens. 3 days worth of our favorite allergy~friendly foods. We even had S’mores… OHHH, what a treat by the fire!
My mind returned to:
‘Back to school’ thoughts.
- Open communication with the nurse and teachers… check! As a matter of fact, we have great working relationships.
- Letter to the parents… check.
- Snack lists to share with teachers and classroom families… check.
- Individual classroom snack bin… check.
- IHP – Individual Health Plan prepared… check.
- Epis for school… check.
- ID or bracelet… on the way.
- Peanut/tree nut-free posters/lunchroom posters… ready to go.
- Allergy Awareness Class arranged… in the works.
Then reality hit me. I thought about where we were and what resources we had available. If we could go away into the mountains for a long weekend, with limited contact to the outside world, then we could send him off to kindergarten. Medical help and resources would be much more readily available there than it was where were currently vacationing.
We can’t stop him from growing up. We can’t always protect him. We can only guide him on awareness and making good choices. We are a bit nervous with the increased freedom he will have compared to preschool. After two visits to the ER due to anaphylactic reactions to foods, he is probably more aware than other 5 1/2 year olds regarding the precautions he needs to follow.
Having food allergies doesn’t have to stop one from living. I tell my children regularly that everyone has their own challenges. Some differences you can see, others are in the inside. They see people whose challenges are external and they count their blessings. They have their arms, legs and hair. They know their challenges are internal. Their challenge is a bit of a gift in that it forces them to make more cautious choices. Not such a bad thing.
I try not to live my life worrying about WHAT IF something happens. I try to focus on knowing that IF the WHAT IF happens, will I or my children know what to do.
And, we all do.
Yes, I am ready to send him off to kindergarten with new caretakers. Almost.
Did I tell you who wanted to stay an extra day up in the mountains, miles away from it all? We all did.
Here’s to an allergy family who inspires me every day to continue evolving to be the best mother, wife and person I can be.
Daniella Knell is the owner of Smart Allergy~Friendly Education. As an allergy awareness educator and consultant, her passion is raising awareness on allergy and product education. Her blog is www.smartallergy.blogspot.com