Category Archives: School/DayCare

Ways to Help a Child with Food Allergies From Feeling Left Out

Although we have some time before this stage, I found this to be an excellent read and wanted to share.

9 Ways Parents Can Help a Child with Food Allergies from Feeling Left out at School

Source: http://community.kidswithfoodallergies.org/


Even though it has been a tough four days for my little one who has a stomach bug/viral infection of some sort, we smile on remembering that “today is beautiful”…

“Sometimes the day won’t ever end
Sometimes you just throw up your hands
It’s the little things sometimes

Sometimes the world has just gone dark
Sometimes your praying for a spark
It’s the little things sometimes

But if you lift your eyes
See it in a different light
Just a cloud up in the open sky
Let the rain, fall away
Cause today is beautiful…”

– Lyrics from “Today is Beautiful” – David Dunn

http://www.klove.com/music/artists/david-dunn/songs/today-is-beautiful-lyrics.aspx

tj cartoon

The Truth Must Not Tiptoe

To You or Anyone out there that is ever asked to watch over my son for just a moment,

I must start by explaining how challenging this week has been. I stopped myself from writing this sooner because it would have had a much more angry tone. I do believe that emotions are much clearer once they have had a day or two to sort themselves out and time to be slept on…

sleep

With that being said, I can no long tiptoe around certain facts but instead I must wear “crazy mom” proud in hopes that the blatant truth even grabs your potential ignorance for a second. So while I write this, I pray for empathy…

 MOCKINGBIRD

To start, let me recap.  My little guy is not eating at daycare yet again. It started on Tuesday with two days of refusing any food from 7 am- 2:30 pm. On Tuesday, he ate nonstop when he got home though until he went to bed. That did change the later part of the week when he started to refuse many foods at home too. We are not sure what is causing this?

Is he cutting more teeth? (The bottom canines are right there about to cut through and the top canines reeked havoc a few weeks ago.)

Is it the cold and cough he had?

Is it being a toddler and going through yet another phase?

Is it all of the above?

Or, is it something else…

Heck, maybe he is bored with his restricted diet and we need to start getting more creative.


Whatever the reason for this strike is …

No matter how frustrating it may get …

No matter how challenging it is to manage a child with multiple food allergies …

There are several factors that are imperative for you to know:

1) The guidelines and safety procedures that we worked on for him during mealtimes were not created to make your life more difficult. ( Click here for daycare accommodation post.) Instead, they are meant to protect my son’s life. We do realize how challenging it is to manage many active toddlers and truly appreciate that all of you have agreed to work with us despite the allergies.

2) Please don’t tell me that my son no longer likes bananas when you haven’t even peeled it for him. I do thank you for the confirmation that my son is advanced but I am not so sure any 17 month old toddler is communicating enough at this point to inform you, “I won’t be eating bananas anymore so there’s no need to peel.” I am hoping that this is just teeth and a phase which will soon pass. I send in bananas every day because I am hopeful he will start to eat them again. Hope is what I thrive on…

3) Please don’t take it upon yourself to stop using the high chair we provided for snack and mealtimes because it is inconvenient to strap him into it then have to unstrap him five minutes later when I arrive to pick him up. Your inconvenience takes up ten seconds of your time that I am willing to take off your hands and do myself. Those ten seconds can protect his life.

4) Actually, let’s go back to the topic of actual food again.   Please refrain from telling me he no longer likes any of the food I ever provide. I can assure you that I know my son best and understand how his diet is very repetitive. I too believe he is bored with his food and I promise you we are working on it.  We don’t have as many options as most do and introducing new foods is often a frightening task.  With that being said, please also hold back from telling me to cut back on the amount of food I send in. What inconvenience does it cause if I continue to send in what he was typically eating at home during the summer?  …Once again, I am breathing on hope…

5) My son had an anaphylactic reaction to a tiny amount of yogurt. His dairy IgE levels are still very high as are the components of it that are more likely to cause anaphylaxis.  Therefore, there is a greater chance of a life-threatening reaction if he was to ingest it again. Many foods (more than you think) that people of all ages consume contain dairy.  Soooooo…..

He should never ever ever be playing next to another toddler or young child who is eating. The webcam shot is beyond terrifying especially since it wasn’t an adult who removed him from the area but instead, my 17 month old son himself. This is his life we are talking about. One taste of any of it and he needs his EpiPen or Auvi-Q administered. If he is the one removing himself and not an adult seeing this situation, I am not so sure how that can happen. It causes my fear to challenge my faith…

Please tell me how to make this easier for you to monitor him. We tried getting him a private one-to-one nurse for mealtimes … We bought him his own high chair for meal times … We will buy gates to separate the eating and playing areas if need be. I will do anything to ensure his safety and help all of you. I pray throughout each day that God guides me through all of my decisions and actions especially those that relate to my little guy. I pray you tell me how I can help you protect my son. Prayer drives my faith…

I know there will be close calls in general because of sending him to daycare.   Right now, it is not an option financially for me to stay home with him and protect him. I wish there was an easy answer to all of this. I wish that there were daycare facilities out there free of the top 8 allergens, not just tree nuts and peanuts. People don’t just have anaphylactic reactions to nuts you know? (Why aren’t there facilities like this especially with the prevalence of food allergies so high and increasing?)

If you or anyone out there is ever asked to watch over my son for just a moment, I pray that you can stop focusing on me as the crazy mom that I know you have labeled me as already.  Instead, I pray that you turn that focus to my son’s best interest and when you have questions ask me or suggestions suggest them to me.  Trust me that I am more than you think I am….

DAVID GOKEY

Instead, put aside your ignorance for a second and remind yourself that this is about life. My son’s life depends on it. So, open your minds and hearts by first tuning in your ears and actions.There are already too many “what ifs” in life to have to worry about factors that can be controlled.  Is it wrong of me to expect this? Are my expectations too high?

Until I have more answers next week, I am challenged by some fears. I fear that I will start to hear daycare facilities tell us that they cannot have my son. I worry that he will not be able to have the same experiences in life as others his age. I want to make his life as amazing as possible and teach him that food allergies like any challenge in life, can’t define you.   Only YOU can define yourself! 

But I need your help…

I am no longer angry at anyone… for I never stay that way for long. Instead, I am more motivated than ever to continue this journey of advocating and protecting my little “Cutes.”

LOVE

I hope that my honesty can help shut the door on ignorance for at least one person.  In the meantime, we thank you God because it is very evident that you are walking right beside our son, holding his hand through this valley, this journey that we can’t tiptoe around.  But with your strength and the truth, we can battle and smile on…


See more about allergy levels here:

Allergy Level Post

Dairy Components

TJ’s Daycare Update – September 26

It has been almost a month since we started back at work and daycare after having off for the summer. Therefore, I wanted to give an update on how everything is going with TJ being back at daycare as an active toddler with his eczema and multiple food allergies. While there have been some challenges, we are blessed because he has been safe. So let me recap week by week the challenges while also counting our blessings.

For more background information on the safety plan we put together for TJ’s utmost safety, check out these two previous posts:

  1. Preparing for Daycare (A Plan in the Works)
  2. TJ’s Daycare Accommodations

Leading up to that first week back, I experienced major anxiety, worrying about all the “what ifs” and horrible possibilities that could happen. I even reached out to different moms through other allergy sites about sending their toddlers with multiple food allergies to daycare. After the first few people responded to my post, I started to get even more upset. They were mostly all suggesting not to send TJ to a daycare at all and offering other options that they themselves took. While I appreciated all the suggestions especially since I had been the one who asked, I grew even more anxious. That’s when I realized that I was not looking for suggestions. Instead I was hunting for confirmation from everyone and anyone that we were making the right decision for TJ. Asking others on other allergy sites for suggestions is one thing and a great resource to have.  However, searching for confirmation all over the place is the same exact reason that complicated and frustrated me last winter when TJ’s allergies were first discovered. I reminded myself that I do NOT need confirmation from everyone and anyone who will listen. Therefore, I stopped reading the other posts and suggestions, and shifted my focus to trusting our detailed plan, my mother’s intuition and most importantly, God. Repeating to myself over and over again every single time a worry comes to mind… “I trust you God.”

Therefore, with the start of the new school year, TJ  started back at the daycare facility that is a block from my work and has been working with us since he started at 6 months.  This staff has been working  more closely with us since his initial allergic reaction in December. (Read more about that experience here.) And even more closely now that he is a very active toddler among many other active toddlers.


So, let’s get back to the actual update:

WEEK 1
Challenge: The Food Strike

In addition to the screaming that happened and broke my heart every morning when I dropped him off, TJ would not eat much at daycare that first week, and even had two days of total refusal. Thankfully, he would drink his soy toddler formula. However, we were panicked since he was losing weight in only 4 days being at daycare. He would, however, eat his dinner at home on those days.

Was it just the transition back to daycare?

Was it our fault for allowing and using Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and music videos (ha) during mealtimes at home to get him to eat? (At the start of the summer since TJ’s iron levels were slightly low, we were following our pediatrician’s advice to not give a supplement yet and try different iron-rich foods. Therefore, we gave into the television and it worked! ) However, was it causing a problem now?

Was teething not helping the situation?

Or, a thought that crossed my mind which several others Including my hubby may think I’m crazy for …

Even though TJ was only 16 months, did he somehow already understand that only food from Mommy and Daddy was safe? Was God protecting him with this strike?

Counting our blessings: The hunger strike then continued over that weekend at home. All of the sudden, TJ wanted to feed himself the specific foods that he wanted. So, after emailing our pediatrician, we followed TJ’s lead and also avoided watching Mickey. By the end of that weekend, he was eating and much more independent with it. And, two new teeth had cut through … the upper canines. Ouch!

TEETHINGIf you ask me, these new teeth and independent phase ( hunger strike and all) could not have come at a better time. Now that TJ was eating more on his own, he did not need as much assistance from anyone and there would less of a chance of cross contamination during mealtimes. Every day when I pick TJ up from daycare, I thank God for keeping him safe that day. Despite the hunger strike,  I count my blessings… TJ was protected and safe.

WEEK 2
Challenge: No More High Chair?

To start the week off, TJ and I had a “talk” in the car about eating at daycare and that all of the food is safe and sent by Mommy and Daddy. (Ha I know this is a bit silly but hey, they understand more than we think they do, right?) As we went to get out of the car that morning, TJ held on tightly to one of his favorite stuffed animals, Buddy. Since I did not want to upset him, I let him bring it with him. He did not cry that morning and actually ate half of his food! Thank you Buddy and the rest of his stuffed buddies who take turns going to school with TJ each day now.  Our mornings are no longer filled with tears.

IMG_2950[1]

With the eating improving week 2, another challenge presented itself though. That Friday when I picked TJ up for the day, he was not drinking his afternoon sippy cup in the high chair we had provided.  Instead, he was seated at one of the main tables where four other toddlers eat.  He was seated in a seat labeled “Hunter.” While there had been conversation about TJ eventually being transitioned from the safe, allergen-free high chair to the “food allergy safe table,” we did not think that this would happen without us knowing and on the 8th day of school!!! Plus, he wasn’t even at the table designated for allergies.  He sat at one of the main tables.

NO MORE HIGH CHAIR

As soon as TJ saw me, he threw his sippy cup down onto the table and ran to me.  While I know that the staff cleans the tables and it is a peanut and tree nut free classroom, I was not comfortable with the entire scenario and how it went down without us knowing.   I told his teacher that I was not comfortable with this and explained my reasons why.  However, it was Friday, I was exhausted, wanted to beat traffic, and discuss this with my husband before deciding what to do next.

SURPRISE

One of my biggest fears before the school year started was that everyone would be super cautious and careful with TJ to begin with.  Then, as the weeks and months went by, they would become “comfortable” and more relaxed with everything. I did not expect that comfort to already present itself on day 8 though!

CONFUSED 2

Counting our blessings: We emailed the directors that weekend very nicely explaining our concerns with this change.  They responded right away with a very supportive email, indirectly letting us know that they had no idea about the change.   After speaking with them, it was clarified to everyone that for now TJ is to sit in his high chair for all meals.  At the end of October, we will all discuss switching him to his allergen-free table. They also assured us that before any change occurs with TJ we would be contacted and asked our thoughts on it.   TJ also now participates in art activities at the main tables.   However, food is not involved.

We count our blessings…Not only is a daycare facility going above and beyond for TJ’s safety, he has been protected and safe.


WEEK 3

Challenge: First Cold of the School Year

Counting our blessings: Although colds and sicknesses stink and I hate to see my Cutes not feeling well, I know that they are inevitable especially when you attend a daycare. Because I know that TJ has been kept safe for almost a month now and a facility is working so closely with us even though they don’t have to, this first cold doesn’t even seem like a challenge at all. Therefore, we are extremely blessed and thankful.  With all of that being said and some extra cuddles and rest, we know that we will kick this cold in the butt so we smile on…

Art Supplies

Through this entire experience, I have become extremely thankful for other moms with blogs out there. (And dads that may have them but I just haven’t found them yet.) The information you have shared is beyond helpful.

GLUTEN FREE ART SUPPLIES

With that being said, here is such a helpful one about gluten-free art supplies that we will be using all year long. =)

Gluten Free Art Supplies

TJ’s Daycare Accommodations

Being a Special Education teacher for ten years and in the field for twelve years, I know the importance of accommodations based on students’ Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).   Because of TJ’s multiple food allergies with his risk for a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction, anaphylaxis, his safety and well-being does require several accommodations. If TJ was older and attending a school that receives federal funding, he would qualify for a 504 plan. Here is a great resource about these plans.

Section 504 Plans and Management Plans

Because a written plan like this is not available for TJ at his day care, we met and are continuing to discuss the best plan to ensure TJ’s safety. After working with TJ’s daycare to devise a plan according to his Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Emergency Care Plan, several accommodations have been made. We were informed that his classroom will be a top-priority allergy room for the year and every year moving forward.

ACCOMMODATIONS/SAFETY PROCEDURES:

  1. TJ will have his own high chair for meals and snacks. They will control everything that TJ eats in the high chair and reduce the risk of cross-contamination by having one aide help in feeding him.
  2. As mealtime is ending, they will keep TJ in his high chair until everyone else is washed and put onto nap cots.  Then, they will clean the classroom tables before TJ gets down.
  3. In the future as TJ becomes older and a high chair is not applicable anymore, we will provide disposable place mats for TJ to use at a table that is separate for the ones with his allergies.
  4. These disposable place mats will be used for any activities he may use the classroom tables for.
  5. We asked TJ’s Auvi-Q to be stored by him and offered to buy a storage box for it.   Due to the facility’s emergency procedure and plan, all medications including Epi-pens/Auvi-Qs are stored in the office which is two doors down and less than 150 feet away.  After speaking with our allergist about this, we have decided that keeping this procedure and location in place is the best option for TJ’s safety.
  6. Art Supplies: Since TJ is currently allergic to wheat according to his blood level results, he needs to avoid art supplies that contain wheat.  While it is very unlikely they would cause an anaphylactic reaction, they would likely cause a skin irritation/reaction of some sort.   Therefore, before they participate in activities like Play Dough, we will be contacted.   Then, we have offered to purchase the allergen-free versions to replace them so that all students can use the same materials and isolation does not become an issue.
  7. TJ will only use cleaning materials and products given by us.
  8. TJ will be closely monitored and daycare will communicate more often with us.
  9. As a back-up plan, in case needed, I have lunch during TJ’s lunch this year and they will contact if they need me to come assist.
  10. TJ’s classroom is tree nut and peanut free.  (All students’ lunch and snack labels and containers will be checked each morning to ensure that this is indeed the case.)

PROCEDURES AND POLICIES ALREADY SET IN PLACE THAT HELP US

  1. A new strict allergen policy that relates to food ingestion and potential food exposure/cross contamination issues inside each classroom
  2. No sharing utensils or food policy
  3. Constant hand washing/face washing
  4. Disinfecting surfaces
  5. Every employee is trained in administering an Epi-pen.

SOMETHING THAT WE CAN’T CHANGE BUT WITH THE GUIDANCE OF OUR ALLERGIST AND GOD, I AM TRUSTING TJ WILL BE TOTALLY FINE WITH

  • TJ will need the actual flu shot despite his egg allergy since he cannot receive the thymerisol-free/egg-free version of the flu shot. This version is not FDA approved for people under 18 years of age.   We asked our allergist today when TJ went to get his MMR shot there.  (Ahhhh I hate shots and especially more now that some contain components that he is allergic to That’s a whole other topic though.) Therefore, we will need to have TJ given the flu shot at the allergist’s office this year.

Sure, I am still over here “plotting” more and more ways to ensure TJ’s utmost safety but isn’t that what parents do?  I do not expect everyone to understand our situation, decisions, and the extent to which we would and do go, like we did in this situation. However, I do expect others to respect it.  With that being said, we are blessed with the support of so many individuals like TJ’s daycare staff who not only respect us, but also clearly care for him.   Therefore, we continue to smile on into the weekend …

TIPSy TUESDAYS – Preparing for Daycare (in the Works)

While we met with my son’s daycare last Friday and left with a positive feeling, we are still working on some logistics on how to best to keep TJ safe.   Therefore, here is my original post on how to prepare for a new year at daycare.  I will post about how everything turned out once these details are worked out. =)

TIPSy TUESDAYS – Preparing for Daycare (in the Works).

 

TIPSy TUESDAYS – Preparing for Daycare (in the Works)

Today’s tips are about preparing for a new year at daycare.   Since I myself am new to this, this post is also a way for me to organize my thoughts as we prepare for TJ going back to daycare in a couple weeks. While I have learned that life often doesn’t go according to how we plan it, I believe it is very important to be prepared with a plan of action whenever you can.   When dealing with food allergies and eczema, I am learning it is all about educating others while also staying educated yourself. Preparing others while also being prepared, and trying to stay cautiously optimistic.

Here is our preparation/education process (still in the works).

  1. MEETING: Set up a meeting to discuss TJ and his food allergies/eczema with the coordinators to discuss all of the following.
  2. FOOD ALLERGY & ANAPHYLAXIS EMERGENCY CARE PLAN: Make sure to have an updated emergency plan. Since TJ’s plan was first written in December/January when he was 8 months, it was extremely important to have this updated. We will bring a couple copies of this so that they can have it in the office and more importantly, in his classroom.
  3. SPEAK WITH ALLERGIST/PEDIATRICIAN/DOCTORS: We spoke with all of TJ’s doctors and received their input and recommendations regarding everything including mealtimes, procedures, cross contamination, and even play time.
  4. LETTERS: Since TJ is highly allergic to several common foods, it is very important for TJ’s best safety that he is closely monitored especially during mealtimes. We also have to make sure that meals and snacks are only eaten during certain times and designated places.   Our doctors all stated this.   Therefore, we had two doctors write letters to try to get him a one-to-one assistant/teacher during mealtimes. The person handling TJ’s food needs to wash their hands before preparation and should not be handling others’ food.  It sounds demanding but it is necessary.  
  5. A PLAN FOR MEALTIMES: His classroom is a tree nut and peanut free classroom. However, TJ must only eat what we send in with him. In addition to this, whoever is handling his food or him needs to be extra conscious about washing their hands beforehand. We will also ask if we can bring our own high chair for TJ’s use only.
  6. ACTIVITIES: Remind the school to check with us before TJ participates in certain activities such as playing with Play Dough and paints.   Some of these art supplies contain ingredients that he is allergic to like wheat. We will plan to provide alternate supplies.
  7. BRING PROPER MEDICATIONS/LOTIONS: We will bring Benadryl and an extra set of Auvi-Q injectors, explaining that they must be stored near him in his classroom, instead of the main office. When someone is allergic to bees, they bring their Epi-Pen with them outside in case they are stung.  Therefore, TJ’s should be nearby when he is eating.   With lotions, sunscreen, and even cleaning supplies, there are only certain types that he can use due to his dermagraphism and eczema.
  8. EXCELLENT LINK SENT BY OUR ALLERGIST TO GUIDE US: MANAGING FOOD ALLERGIES IN THE SCHOOL SETTING – GUIDANCE FOR PARENTS
  9. SMILES/POSITIVE ATTITUDE: I am not sure how this meeting or school year will go, and I am sure that I will learn more throughout it all.   However, this is how we will approach Friday’s meeting, prepared with a plan of how to ensure TJ’s absolute safety.   Like TJ, we will be wearing our smiles, praying and having faith that it WILL be the start of a great new school year.