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Kids and Allergies: Girding for the fight at school that didn’t happen

Submitted by on Monday, 25 August 2008 No Comment

I spent all summer before Big Guy started kindergarten frantically researching the Americans with Disabilities Act and its implications for people with allergies and asthma.

I checked with the school nurse early and often, making sure she had all the records, medications, forms and instructions she needed.

I told her Big Guy needed to be segregated in the cafeteria, and they were so conscientious about making that happen that the assistant principal herself took lunch duty the first day to make sure all staff knew who Big Guy was and where he was to sit. They already had “peanut free zone” placards made up for “his table.”

The one area that threw me: Classroom snacks. I wasn’t aware of this as a possible issue until the new student orientation the night before his first day. The package of peanut butter and crackers sitting in what soon would be his classroom didn’t even register in my brain until about 3 the next morning, when I awoke with a jolt and freaked out. Those have to go, my panicked brain screamed.

I talked to his teacher the next morning and asked her to not serve them until we could talk further, and she immediately agreed. When I picked Big Guy up that afternoon, I requested a peanut-free classroom. She sent the note home the next day, to the afternoon class as well as to his morning classmates. Because Big Guy is contact allergic to peanut, they were concerned that something left over from the previous evening could hurt him the next morning.

Additionally, she agreed to keep an Epipen and inhaler in the classroom and to learn how to use it.

I think I’m in love.

Yes, I realize that the school is doing what it is required by law to do. But I also realize that officials could have dragged this out and buried me in paperwork for many nervous weeks. Instead, everything I requested was taken care of immediately. That shows impressive awareness on their part.

And every staff member — from the assistant principal to teachers to the bus drivers who serve as cafeteria monitors — have done everything in their power to make sure Big Guy is safe at school. That shows impressive caring on their part.

This time last year, I was agonizing over where to send Big Guy for kindergarten — somewhere closer to my office, which would cut everyone’s driving time, or our neighborhood school, where Big Guy could make friends with kids who live close by.

I opted for the neighborhood school, and I’m more convinced every day that that decision was the right one.

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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