This is a phrase I utter more often than not, especially to school and camp officials. It’s always driven me a little batty when I get that dazed and confused look after I say my son John could die from a reaction to milk too. Or even legumes and peas¬† could cause my son John to have an anaphylactic reaction.
So when developing John’s IEP and 504 Plan recently the topic of a peanut free classroom came up again. I decided that once and for all, this year, we were going to require that John’s room be declared Dairy Free too. Because as long as my school doesn’t incorporate a Food Free Birthday Treat Policy among all grade levels (exceptions are holiday parties and special educational events) I was going to make sure my son’s classroom was as safe as possible. As a mom of five kids, I’m busy. And I know all of you are busy. Do you really feel like running around whipping up a batch of my treats (as easy as they are) every month when a child celebrates his or her birthday in class? As much as I love to bake, doing this every month gets tiresome. And it¬†often makes the child with food allergies feel excluded. More important, since daily snacks are allowed in my son’s school, there’s always a child that brings yogurt or cheese to school. John has had some pretty serious reactions just from touching residue of dairy. The whole idea of food in the classroom is so unnecessary, but if it is a must, than I think alternatives such as fresh fruit, pretzels, etc. are safer bets.
I have to give high praise to my son’s educational team, because once I informed them that John’s dairy allergy is as life threatening as his peanut allergy, they were responsive to my desire to make John’s class environment as safe as possible. Our school nurse drafted a letter immediately (once the new IEP and 504 took effect) that was sent out to my son’s classmates. The letter stated that a classmate has a life threatening allergy to dairy, and the specific procedures were in place to provide the safest possible environment. The procedures included:
- Do not send any dairy products such as yogurt or cheese for a snack.
- Do not send container that have contained dairy products such as washed out plastic containers.
- If your child eats dairy before school, please have them thoroughly wash his or her hands before coming to school. It is important that residue from drinking milk, eating cheese or yogurt is not on a student’s hands when they handle common school books and equipment.
- Our classroom celebrates birthdays in a food-free manner. You can contact your teacher for ideas.
I am very proud and grateful that our school took my concerns seriously and quickly enforced new procedures that further ensured John’s safety at school. Of course, I’m sure there may be some eyes rolling or heads turning among some of the parents upon receiving the letter but I hope not. I would like to think that if any non food allergic parent put themselves in our shoes for just even a moment, and think about what it must feel like to know that your child die from a food allergic reaction, they might change their mind and do whatever they can to help.
Have¬†a great holiday weekend everyone!!