Who knew that when starting at a new school that my food allergic child would cause more stress than the school itself? We’ve always known that our child has a great deal of difficulty with change, even if she doesn’t show it anywhere but in the safe confines of our home. I’m not sure if she’s this way because of the food allergies or whether she would have been like that regardless, all I know is that change creates a great deal of anxiety.
Before school started, we had a great meeting with the school counsellor assigned to our child and got a better sense of how they handle food allergies and how we could work together. We were all pleased to find out that they have dozens of food allergic children in the school, which makes sense given the current statistics. But still, it was a consolation to Megan to know that she was not alone.
After that, our next step was to take a new picture of Megan to update her anaphylaxis poster plus recraft a letter for the parents in her classes and send those off to the counsellor for distribution to all staff. The first mistake I made was including Megan in the process. I figured that since she turned 15 the previous week, she should be included in making a new letter for high school. Apparently, nothing I said was right. In the end, after many tears, it basically came down to the fact that she didn’t want to be singled out as different. I get it, believe me, I do, but our reality requires everyone around her, including her peers, to be educated.
The next wrong move was having her check out the updated anaphylaxis poster before sending it off to the counsellor with instructions to post on neon paper and put in all Megan’s classrooms and staff areas. Blowup number 2 came at that point. I’ve done these posters every year since she started school, including when she moved to new schools. But at the age of 15, the idea of a poster if mortifying. Again, I get it, but in my book food allergies are one time when people need to know who you are. And that comes from experience when I didn’t know all of the students in the school I was teaching at.
So once that was done and my child wouldn’t even look at me, she went off to her first day for just a morning of orientation.
Megan started off the school year with a homeroom teacher who has peanut allergies. Sounds good right? Until the part when they realized that during the day when she isn’t in homeroom, they have special needs kids and Aboriginal kids (we have a reserve very close by) working with different counsellors, etc. All good except when those kids are hungry, guess what they feed them? Yup, peanut butter sandwiches. And the concern expressed by the aides who feed the kids was that some of those kids may be a bit smeary and not clean up well. I was really pleased that the counsellor informed me of this situation; I felt that the staff had Megan’s best interests at heart.
Therefore, that afternoon I moved Megan into a homeroom that is a science lab because no food is allowed in at any time. The school was great in providing the suggestion and in making it happen fast but Megan imploded. For me to move her after she got comfortable in that new classroom that first day and after I sent a letter plus posters to be posted up all over the school with her face on them, was unforgiveable. She figured she’d get through her homeroom for the next 3 years (they stay in the same room with kids of all ages), by not touching anything. Highly unrealistic to the logical thinker but completely normal to a kid ready to run screaming into the night. All I could think about was how teenagers have the highest risk of anaphylaxis and now I know why.
I was a basket case. How do you handle when the parents and school are working together great but the child is completely not on board? It caused me more than one sleepless night and many heart to heart talks with my husband. In the end, Megan did apologise to me when she realized she was being unreasonable and that we all had her best interests at heart. So we seem to have settled down but I’m still dancing on eggshells a bit.
Just don’t let Megan read this blog – I’m not sure our house could survive it.