ANA Food Allergies: Halloween Could Kill My Child

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This morning I am mad. Really mad. I am mad because I am hurt.

You see, my son is a high school sophomore. He is an active member of his school. He has spoken at local Board of Supervisor and Board of Education meetings regarding issues near to his heart. He plays in the marching band (he's the best one out there if you ask me or his dad!) He swims on a summer swim team. He volunteers at a local middle school band camp during the summer. He volunteered out of state at a food allergy camp last summer, giving up a week of his personal time to show these children a great, safe time!

candy

Credit Image: jeff_golden on Flickr

Oh, by the way, he was born with a congenital heart defect. He had his first open-heart surgery as an infant; we are preparing for his second one in less than three weeks. Yep, mom is a mess. I would love to tell you all about his journey, but that is another post.

As if his CHD wasn't enough, he developed numerous anaphylactic allergies in elementary school. We manage. We adjust. We ask for your understanding and support, not your pity or sorry eyes.

Today, I rant. Today, instead of posting educational and heartfelt information on Matthew's Facebook group page, I respond to the complaints from parents regarding the ever-increasing policies to eliminate food from classrooms across the country.

Yes, I am aware that the grammar is not perfect. I have no doubt you will find a spelling error. I'm not sorry. I don't care. You need to read this. If I had taken the time to proofread, I wouldn't have posted it. I try not to upset people or give them an avenue to attack my Knight.

Please let me know what you think ... I'm mad, really mad.

As Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and then Valentine's Day and Easter all fall during the school calendar year (and with Halloween this week), I feel it is appropriate to share some information with all of you about food allergies. While I do post information regarding food allergies, CHDs, and special needs education, I rarely rant.

Today, I rant. It's a long one. Go potty, get a fresh cup of coffee, and sit down a while. Here goes ...

What You Need to Know About Food Allergies

  • Fact -- Food allergies affect one in every 10 - 13 kids in America. That is, on average, two children in every classroom. A large majority of students that do not have an allergy themselves have siblings that do. Perhaps both children have allergies to different things.

  • Fact -– Food allergy diagnoses are increasing every year.

  • Fact -– I pray that your child (or any of your loved ones) is never diagnosed with an ANA allergy; however, regardless how you have treated me or my children to date, I will help you understand the new world you now live in and pray for you.

  • Fact –- 25% of allergic reactions in the school environment happen to children with no known allergy. Would you want your child to be one of them? Does your school have a Stock Epinephrine Injector available -– would your school nurse be able to use another child’s injector without risking her job for using a medication prescribed for another child on yours?

  • Fact -- Anaphylactic Allergies are considered a disability under Section 504 of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

  • Fact -- Under ADA, handicap accessible facilities are required. While my child does not require a ramp or an elevator in his school or community, my tax dollars are used to provide these services, thus enabling physically challenged individuals equal access to services and classrooms. LET ME SAY that even BEFORE my son was diagnosed with ANA allergies, I wholeheartedly supported this law and would have gladly testified before Congress regarding the need for such.

  • Fact -- Excluding food items from school functions will NOT kill your child.

  • Fact –- Including food items in school functions could kill my child … or could kill your child if they are one of the 25% I mentioned above.

  • Fact -- Excluding food items from school functions does not require the use of taxpayer dollars; therefore, it takes NOTHING out of your pocket.

  • Fact -- Food allergy parents spend thousands of dollars more annually to provide their child with safe, properly nourishing foods than non-food allergic parents. By the way, we happily do this, because we love our children the same way your love yours.

  • Fact -- Every food allergy parent I know provides their child with lunch at school, thus saving the school system a huge financial burden and the liability of preparing "safe" meals.

  • Fact -– Every food allergy parent I know volunteers a disproportionately large amount of time in their child’s school.

  • Fact –- Every food allergy parent I know would stand beside you during any struggle you go through, because they know the loneliness from exclusion (as, sadly, so do their children) and the sense of overwhelming that comes with a challenge faced alone.

  • Fact -- I have NEVER met a food allergy parent that requested anything that was not reasonable when it comes to classroom party accommodations. Granted, some do. I, personally, have not seen it, and the stories I have heard about it basically come down to fear for their child’s safety that was precipitated by a scary event.

  • Fact -- I would not push your child down a set of stairs to see what happens. Why would you place my child in a potentially dangerous situation and just “see what happens”?

  • Fact -- "Hidden" disabilities are disabilities just the same.

  • Fact -- NO parent of a child with any disability chose this for their child, their family, their community.

  • Fact –- Childhood obesity is on the rise, as is juvenile-onset diabetes. How can you insist that schools provide hot, nutritious lunches with taxpayer dollars and then overload students with birthday cupcakes 20+ times between September and June, give candy as a bribe to complete school work or learn spelling words and host at least five holiday parties each year (more if you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, have cookies for President’s Day and … ). Kind of a double standard, isn’t it?

  • Fact –- I am afraid of the generation we are raising. Seriously, they frighten me. If little Susie won’t complete her math page without getting a candy bar as a reward or young Tim believes he is entitled to a sucker for knowing his spelling words, what the hell are they going to do when they reach the real world? Ask their boss for a Dairy Queen Blizzard after morning meeting because they showed up on time and completed their assigned work?

  • Fact –- Your non-food allergic child has the option to go trick-or-treating this year. Mine does not have that choice. Your child will have a sack full of candy at the end of night. My child will be handing out candy. Hope you like Smarties, Tootsie Rolls, and Nerds –- those are safe for my son to handle, and what you will get if you stop by our home dressed like a princess or ghost. By the way, your child is adorable in their costume and I will tell them that; however, you don’t even walk your kids down my driveway and to my door, so my son never hears you say that to him.

  • Fact –- If you ever see someone having an anaphylactic reaction (and I pray you don’t), you will never forget it. Never.

I read a post recently by a non-food allergic mom. She wrote it on the day she finally “got” food allergies from a parent perspective. To paraphrase, she basically stated that she never realized that food allergy parents were not worried if their child’s friends would like their new shoes on the first day of school or if they had the coolest notebook, because they were worrying if their child would even come home.

Our children are just that -– children. When he grows up and enters the “real world,” he will not work on a peanut farm if he is allergic to peanuts. He will not work in the Hershey plant if he is allergic to chocolate. He will have choices. Yes, they will be limited, but he will have choices. He will cope. He will alter his world to meet his health needs. Right now he doesn’t have those choices; however, you, the adult he wants to trust and look up to, do have choices. Do you leave a child out? Do you have peanut butter cookies at your child’s birthday party and invite the whole class for the festivities EXCEPT the peanut allergic child, or do you have sugar cookies and include little Johnny so he isn’t sitting at home alone and crying?

Would you sit by and watch as a child was getting bullied over wearing the uncool brand of jeans? Hell, no, you wouldn’t! Then, please tell me, why are you bullying my child? Complaining about the “no food” parties within earshot of my child, excluding him from play dates because during the two hours our children will be together, your child NEEDS to eat peanut butter crackers for snack? Yes, YOU. The. Adult. You. Are. The. Problem. Believe it or not, if you explained food allergies to your child, he wouldn’t want to hurt mine. Let’s be honest here, you are the one who is the problem here. Not. Me. Not. My. Child.

In closing, who seriously thinks it is a good idea to eat food prepared in a stranger’s house? What does that kitchen look like? Did they wash their hands after going to the bathroom? Did they pick a booger and then stir the mix? YUCK!

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