Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to School and Protecting a Food Allergic Child

Well, it's that time again; back to school time.  For most parents it's a frantic time of getting back on a schedule and shopping for all of those supplies for the new school year.  But for food allergy parents, it's a time for anxiety and worry that the new school, teachers, and administration will be able to keep your kid safe.

This is my first post to the blog and I wanted to start by commenting on this article:  There are a few things I want to point out. 

First, there is a comment about how doctors do not "go that far" to recommend a peanut free environment or that the custodial staff use separate cleaning products to wipe off the area where a food allergic kid eats.  Obviously, it is a case by case basis as to what a child needs to be safe, but the more cautious, the better.  Many doctors who do not live the food allergy life style have no idea what it takes to keep the kids safe.  They are not in our shoes watching the kids get hives, have asthma attacks and frankly sometimes dodge their allergens on a daily basis.  As it stands, however, the doctors' notes are necessary in order to require a school to make accommodations to protect a food allergic child.  Doctors do need to "go that far" more often.  They need to stand up and advocate for their patients.  Food allergy parents need to insist that the doctors listen to every story about every reaction your child has had in order to fully understand what protections your child needs. And you need to be direct and ask the doctor for exactly what you want the note to the school to say.  The doctor will not sign something that is wrong, but I believe often they do not know what to write, so you need to help them help you.

Second, a parent in Michigan actually sued her school district because it was nut free!  I know it's an inconvenience for a child to not get to eat nuts in school, but bringing a lawsuit is an even bigger inconvenience.  As a lawyer, I know how financially and emotionally taxing, and stressful any lawsuit can be, so it is a ridiculous act of selfishness on that parent's part to go through that much effort to fight a rule put in place to protect other children in the school.  Luckily, she lost.  I am going to try to find more information on that suit and write a separate post later.

Third, there really is no way to describe the sunken feeling food allergy parents feel at this time of year without experiencing it.  Schools are required to do certain things to protect your child, but as with everything in law and medicine, and especially where the two meet, it's a subjective process.  This is the time when you are your child's best advocate and you should become familiar with not only the law, but with the prior food allergy rules and precautions adopted by your school.  A starting point is to first understand that life threatening food allergies are disabilities and should be treated as such by the school.

No comments:

Post a Comment