Friday, August 29, 2008

First Week of School In Review

From a food allergy perspective last week went fine. The nurse actually called me the second day of school to see if I had any concerns. She said the girl who sits next to Max brought a peanut butter sandwich (for snack) the first day so they were going to talk to her parents and see if this would be an every day thing. If so they were going to switch seats. There is one other peanut allergic kid in the class so I don't know why they just didn't sit them together to begin with. There was a birthday so I sent in a cupcake. The teacher has provided me a list with all the birthday dates for the year.

I was more anxious than I think I was acknowledging. This is typical for me. I felt horrible all week. My stomach hurt. I generally felt on edge. Just dropping him off the first day was hard. But I didn't cry until Friday morning when the teacher asked if we could set up a conference because Max was having trouble "socially". I really think she means behaviorally. Apparently he was doing some pushing in line. I'm not surprised his behavior is less than perfect. He was testing everything last week. Throwing a fit when I asked him to set the table. Refusing to stay in his bed the night we had a babysitter. (He was up at 10:30pm when we got home.) He is a child who is terrible in transitions and likes to test and re-test to see how far he can take something. However, after just 3 half days of school was his behavior bad enough to warrant a sit down conference? My mind immediately went to dark places. With multiple life-threatening allergies, he's probably already not a favorite in the teachers mind. Add on a possible behavior problem and I fear a private school might suggest he's not a "fit". My husband thinks I'm being silly and after a weekend under my belt I'm looking at the situation from a different angle but Friday morning I went out to my mini-van and cried.

Tomorrow we start full day and car pool. They will have lunch at school as well as snack (all provided by parents). So we'll see what this week will bring.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Day Has Arrived

Tomorrow Max starts at his new school. I left last week's teacher meeting more nervous than when I went in. I had high expectations as the administration and nurse had been saying all the right things. Tables are washed after snacks and meals. Hands are washed before and after eating. The Epi-pen would be kept with the teacher at all times. The nurse is there full-time.

I got nervous though when right after we sat down, Max's new teacher (Mrs. S.) asked, "So he is allergic to peanuts. Does that mean peanut butter and things with peanuts in them as well?" I thought "Oh no, she doesn't quite get it."

"Do you want his place at the table washed before he eats?" she asked. I said I thought tables were already washed after snacks and meals. The other Kindergarten teacher (Ms. G.) spoke up and explained what they did last year. She had a child in her class the previous year with multiple allergies and was able to go through the table and hand washing process in detail. I added that if people didn't wash their hands Max would remind him. I explained Max's awareness of his own allergies and his defensiveness which can come off as being rude.

When we got to Max's milk allergy Mrs. S. asked, "So what about yogurt or those yogurt drinks, ice cream, he can't have those?" "No," I replied, "or Goldfish crackers or anything that contains milk."

"What will happen if he touches milk?" asked Ms. G, "We have lots of milk spills."

"He will get localized hives." They all seemed rather alarmed at this. I explained that they would need to wash the skin with soap and water. And observe him for other symptoms. Just getting on his skin wouldn't necessarily send him into anaphylaxis. I realize this may be the case for other children but in our case if it's not ingested it had never led us down an Epi pen path.

We covered much, much more about food allergies and Max's needs in order to keep him safe. By the end, Mrs. S. looked beaten down. Which made me more nervous. In hindsight, it has to be hard on teachers. The weight of responsibility for so many children's safety. To have a child who needs extra precautions must sometimes seem overwhelming. Especially when that child is allergic to something in every other child's lunch. I know how I felt when Max was first diagnosed "How am I going to do this?" She must in someways feel the same.

The extraordinary part was what happened when I got home. The school nurse called me. She wanted to know how I felt about the meeting. I relayed my nervousness and we went over the points we felt needed reinforced with Mrs. S. I felt I had found an ally.

It seems we covered everything to keep Max physically safe. But I am still worried about the emotional part. I wonder how much his food allergies will make him feel left out this year. I didn't feel I got into this as much during the meeting. Ah, well, it is a process.

I'm less nervous about the food allergy part now. My nerves today are probably more centered around everything other parents are nervous about. Will his teacher like him/understand where he is coming from? Will he get along with his classmates? Will he like it and embrace learning in a new environment?

I guess the worries never stop, no matter if your child has a food allergy or not.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to School

Whew! We are back from over two weeks in Wisconsin and I have less than a week to prepare for school. I have a meeting with Max's teachers tomorrow. So far I am very impressed with the food allergy awareness they have in place. I am expecting tomorrow to go smoothly, just don't want to forget to cover anything.

Back in May at our support group meeting, Maria Acebel spoke to our group about school safety. She has a website and training program for keeping kids safe at school. She's a wealth of infomation and has turned making every school safe for kids with food allergies her mission. I am taking her discussion points with me to tomorrow's meeting.