Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Allergic Children

Today's Globe and Mail has an excellent piece written by the mother of children with severe allergies

It is still early in the day, and the nasty comments haven't started showing up, but I'm certain she will be met with the predictable dismissals, disbelief, accusations of over-parenting, and the inevitable suggestion that the kids should be left to their evolutionary fate. The responses are so predictable they've become cliché.

I do understand the frustration when explaining safety procedures to the non-allergic. I'm spared the fights with school as my child is homeschooled, but unsupervised activities were out of the question for us until Danny was old enough to manage his eppi- pen, antihistamines, and inhalers.  With very young children, (as the author's are) they need someone reliable to look out for their well being. In our case, living in a rural area, no one fitting that criteria was available, and as a result we were never able to leave our son with a sitter, and have an evening out alone. It wasn't the end of the world, really.

Meals away from home are not something we are willing to risk. I grew up around the restaurant business, and unless a kitchen is designated free of the allergens, it is nearly impossible for them to create a safe environment regardless of what a server may tell you. I've seen enough kitchens, and seen enough of the people that work in kitchens to know it isn't a risk I feel is worth taking. I don't expect an establishment to accommodate allergies, nor do I consider dining out some sort of right. I bring this up because the author of the Globe and Mail piece is ridiculed for bringing along bags of food that are safe for her children to eat. One of the common accusations parents of allergic children face is that we want special treatment. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Allergic parents, you will never win. Homeschool your child, and you will face wails of, "But what about socialisation?!" Ask for a safe school environment, or permission for the child to carry their own eppi-pen? You'll be met with, "Why don't you homeschool?" You will be drilled about the validity of your allergist's assessment, told it is in your head, or interrogated as to whether or not you breast-fed the allergic child. Parents, you will never satisfy these people, and you don't need to. Stick in your imaginary ear-plugs, hold your head up high, and practise a curt reply of, "Thank you for your unsolicited opinion."

As encouragement, let me point out that the bags have grown lighter as my child has grown older, and better able to manage his own allergies. They make carriers for eppi-pens that clip on a belt loop, and an inhaler and single-dose liquid Benadryl can typically fit inside as well. A good medical alert bracelet is a must, and role playing what to do in various situations is helpful. Knowing there is a rule of, "No outside food" takes the responsibility away from the children when people want to push food on them. Saying they are not allowed makes it harder for an adult to instruct a child to deliberately disobey (though not impossible)and saves the child an argument with someone insisting, "It doesn't have any nuts in it". Work on these scenarios with children from a young age, and they will be better prepared to react when it comes up.

I am by no means an expert on allergies, or dealing with people in general, however if you are a parent of an allergic child reading this, take courage that they will learn to manage on their own eventually, and a smaller handbag exists in the future. Meanwhile, you'll become one hell of a cook and baker.


pastcaring said...

Some of the responses to that article are incredibly ignorant and lacking in either sense or compassion. I'm shocked, though clearly you have heard/read it all before.
I have no experience of allergies, but my youngest daughter has a severe skin condition which means her skin is fragile and breaks/blisters easily. I know it isn't comparable, but our school have been great about understanding her needs when she injures herself (which she does, often). While it obviously wouldn't be life-threatening if someone stuck a plaster on her, but I'd rather they didn't as it would rip her skin off when we removed it.
Differences. Life is full of them. I don't understand why some people fight so hard to pretend we are all the same, with the same needs, when clearly we aren't and an inclusive society should not only allow for that, it should embrace it. xxx

Goody said...

It sounds like there's good communication between staff and parents at your school (I mean in general, from your posts)which is something lacking in my neck of the woods. A little consideration in using gauze instead is hardly "special treatment". It is the kind thing to do, and easily done. I don't know when the world became so terribly brutal that small accommodations become a source of hostility, but I guess that's where we are.