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Monday, March 19, 2007

A Dreadful Note

The 'It Takes A Village' series here on NoPeanutsPlease focuses on food allergy from the perspective of those who support food allergic children with in the community - teachers, other parents, child psychologists and even the peanut industry. Ironically I have devoted little time to the perspective of those who actually have the peanut allergy.

This week I had a post called 'Code 2' which discussed a first-hand account of an anphaylactic reaction. Very scary and quite thought provoking. It gave me more insight into what it is like to go through an anaphylactic reaction and left me wondering how somebody could adapt to multiple near death experiences. Today I had a similar reaction to a story about what it's like to be a 12 year old child with a peanut allergy within the school setting.

Parents have the best of intentions. We've explained the allergy to caregivers before and in future would surely send in notes and anaphylaxis response plans for teachers in daycare or elementary school. Parents are correct in thinking that these actions help make their kids safer. However, the flip side is that the child's feelings and self-image are also important and need to be considered. This may sound obvious but the article makes it clear that there is a delicate balance to be struck, as safety is generally not 'hip':

"In my backpack on the first day of school ... is a note from my mother to the teacher telling her about my severe peanut allergy. Every year at this time, I have to hand in this dreadful note. The teacher stands in front of the whole class and reads this note out loud ... I feel so guilty because the some kids sigh and say, "Awwwww." It's so embarrassing because after the teacher is done, some students walk up to me and say, "Thanks a lot, Allegra!"
"... Two years ago, my mom gave me a hideous denim purse to put my EpiPen in. I had to carry it around everywhere I went. I am not what people call the most girly girl, so I was not happy about that."

We'll have to make sure our daughter picks out her own purses! I also think it would be important, when she is more aware of her allergy, to get her perspective on what form of communication would be the most comfortable for her. I will never sacrifice safety purely for her comfort, but they do go hand-in-hand and if there is a way to accommodate both I will certainly try. As seen in the article, if our daughter does not like the purse for her Epipen then she will not bring it with her and that puts her life at risk.


Growing in Grace (Nicole) said...

Plus having our kids play a role in the decisions helps them to take more responsibility for it.

NoPeanuts said...

I fully agree. Especially since the micro-trend seems to be toward fewer peanut bans and a greater reliance on allergic children and their caregivers to manage the peanut allergy. Our daughter is independently minded, even at two years of age (her birthday is today incidentally), and we'll have to ensure she feels her opinion is valued!