Sunday, February 17, 2008

Peanut Allergy Happenings

I have had David's peanut allergy on my mind constantly lately. I guess that's an understatement because it is ALWAYS on my mind as I read food labels and ask about food contents. It is just that as I have been thinking about sending him to preschool in the fall, I have been focusing new energy on his allergy. I have visited a few preschools. My preschool perspective is totally different with David. It isn't about the curriculum. It is about how the teacher would handle his allergy. I had a disappointing reaction from one teacher last week. I was talking to the teacher of a highly recommended preschool. I actually unexpectantly met her and realized who she was. The teacher has been teaching for many years and is known for her creativity and hands-on approach in the classroom. We talked a few minutes about David and how he was set to the be oldest in his class (his birthday is 2 days after the school cut-off). She was extremely upbeat about how that would help him as he goes through school. She was happy to tell me about her program, gave me her card and school website. Then, I mentioned that David has a severe peanut allergy. She asked if he required an Epipen. Her attitude changed. She started sharing experiences she had with another student that had a nut allergy. She started sharing her concerns. She started talking about how hard it is as a teacher (and I found myself self saying- I know- it is really challenging as a parent). When I told Seth about the interaction, he said her reaction was based on her fear. Perhaps it was. She was polite. However, at the end of the conversation, she said that all of the 3 year olds would be coming back and they would get precedence. She said that I should put David's name on the waiting list because it is always possible that someone might move or something. I was pretty stunned by the change of attitude. I am certain that even if she was the best teacher in the state, I couldn't confidently take my child to her class.

This past week at Cub Scouts, the kids were to make bird feeders (basic peanut butter and bird seed variety). This was an interesting activity because David is a "cub scout brother" and he attends all the meetings (our pack allows 4 and 5 year old brothers to participate as a way to introduce them to scouting). It was a small oversight (the kind that I dread when it happens in coming years during an activity of David's). Seth told the den leader that he would just have David stay home. So, on Tuesday, I took Jonathan to cub scouts. Right before the activity I realize that this could be quite frustrating to Jonathan. (My thoughts- Why didn't I think of this before? He CAN'T take the bird feeder project home!) I pull Jonathan over to the side and I explain that he can make the project but he will have to let someone else have it. (His reaction: solemn face "Oh. Okay.") As they start working on the feeder, I come up with another solution. He could prep everything, take some bird seed hom in a bag and use our sunbutter at home to complete the project. Brilliant! Jonathan was thrilled. Another adult dumped some bird seed in brown paper bag for me. I told Jonathan we could complete the project the next day or so. At home, I proudly tell my husband how it all worked out. A few hours later, he checks out the bird seed and tells me that it is full of peanuts. Oh my gosh, I was so surprised. But then, what do I know about bird seed? I had no idea that there were "nut loving birds" The only real blessing was that I did not get all the boys ready to make bird feeders and then pour out the peanut-laden bird seed in our peanut-free home.
Lastly, here's something positive. David has the most amazing attitude about his allergy. On Valentine's day I took him and Thomas (with Elsie in tow, of course) to the local library for story time. This was a first for us and I was hoping for Valentine stories. I was not disappointed but I was caught off guard by the valentine cookie decorating. The moment the librarian mentioned cookies, I had to pull a very excited Daivd aside and let him know that the cookies might not be safe for him. It was all he could do to wait until the last story was over to find out. As soon as she finished reading and said something about the cookie decorating, David asks her if she has a box for the cookies (He knows the only way to know if they are safe is to read the label!) I quickly explain that he has a peanut allergy and find out that the cookies are from a local bakery and are not safe for David. The librarian was so gracious in such a wonderful kid-friendly way. She said, "But, I DO have some graham crackers you can decorate." David was thrilled to get TWO crackers as opposed to Thomas's ONE cookie. Later when I complimented him (over and over) about his wonderful attitude, he said, "It's okay Momma, I just pretended they were cookies." His attitude is the only thing that makes this allergy journey okay. He is so, so positive about it!


Carmom said...

It's no excuse for her attitude but it could have been our of both fear and realization that with a peanut allergy child she has more work to do. There would be a change in curriculum and strict label readin of all snakcs that come into the classroom. I'm so sorry you had that reaction. I hope you will soon find a school and a teacher willing to work with David, you and your family. There are some wonderful teachers out there that are focused on the children's needs completely. I will be praying that you find that teacher and that DAvid stays safe and happy in preschool next year.

Pam said...

Jane Anne-

I am going to pray for you and for the right preschool situation to present itself.

Yes, having a student with a peanut allergy would be more work for a teacher, but so is any child who has a need.

I am finding it a struggle find help for my son who has need of extra attention and a slower pace in his classroom.

Children are not all cut with the same cookie cutter. I pray you find a school and teacher who are willing and able to work with the precious shape God made David.

How sweet is his attitude! I just want to hug that one!

Jessica said...

Hey Jane Anne!

I am pretty sure I know the preschool you are talking about and I too put Sasha on the waitlist there. The teacher mentioned her prior students too and said they had precedence. Sasha has no allergies or disability.

My son has high functioning autism. When we were trying to implement the milk free/wheat free diet, the teachers weren't too enthusiastic at his preschool. I know it is harder for them, I ended up bringing Jackson all his own snacks/treats/drinks. Of course he wanted to know why he couldn't eat what the other kids were eating and the other kids wanted to eat what he had... :) His prior preschool was willing to work with me at least, I wish we lived in Albany so Sasha could go there!

I have heard about a few good preschools in town and even though I've put Sasha on the waitlist at the topic preschool, I will probably be checking these out too. I'm just as new as you trying to find a good preschool for Sashie. She turns three in June.

Jane Anne said...

I guess I didn't mean to imply she was lying to me about the wait list. It was more the change of attitude that bothered me. Thanks for the encouraging comments!

Kimberly said...

As much as it thoroughly stinks that David has to deal with this allergy, I do think it is molding him into this incredibly tender little boy who is going to grow into a young man with such a sweet and sensitive personality.

John & Carrie said...

Thank you for sharing your peanut allergy journey with us! You are doing a great job at protecting your family and giving David a normal life.
Thanks for sharing the happy story at the library--when you put the Valentine pictures of that the other day, I wondered about the cookie decorating.

greenlady31 said...

Hi - I'm a mom of a boy with peanut allergies who surfed in via google alerts. My son is now 9 and I have to say that after a while it does get easier!

If you haven't found them yet, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network is a great reasource -

Also, I've found a lot of support at a message board for individuals and families dealing with food allergies, including peanut allergy.

Best wishes to you and your family!

Anonymous said...

David is such an amazing little trooper. You have so much to be proud of. Bless his heart.

I'm sorry for what you're going through with the preschool situation. I think about how much stress and struggle it was to choose which preschool to initially send Aaron to, and I realize now that it can't be anything compared to what you're going through.

At then-Aaron / now-Ryan's preschool, we are not allowed to bring snacks with peanuts, and there aren't even kids with allergies. I was led to believe it's law (maybe just state law?) for preschool / childcare facilities to allow peanuts, because many kids are learning about their allergy at this age. I was shocked with Aaron at elementary school to learn he could take a PB&J to school, because I'd been used to not being allowed to send those to school with him for so long. (I have to admit - I don't check labels for the preschool about whether stuff was made in a factory with peanuts, but I usually just stick to carrots and cheese sticks, anyway.)

Any teacher that gets to know David will see that having to take extra steps to keep him safe is worth having such a special kid in their class.