Sunday, February 12, 2012

DS was kicked out of preschool for food allergies

Yep, title says it all. This week my son was kicked out of preschool because he has food allergies. I never intended for this to be a food allergy blog, but I really need to sort out my feelings and write out a timeline of events in order to pursue this further. Plus, I made some mistakes along the way, and it might be helpful for others to read my story and make different decisions.

Part of the problem is that dealing with my son's food allergies is second nature to us. He's allergic to milk, eggs, peas, peanuts, and pet dander. He can eat milk and eggs if it's baked in breads or cake because the high temperature kills the specific protein he's allergic to. He can also eat foods cooked in highly processed peanut oil for the same reason. We do have to avoid milk chocolate or anything with chocolate flavoring, cheeses or cheesey snacks like cheese crackers or goldfish, and butter. It's a big deal at first, but after a while you get really used to it.

Another reason I'm so casual about his allergies is that his reactions are easy to fix. They're scary, and I get scared every time he has one. He gets angry, thick, hives all over his face and neck, and then facial swelling in the cheeks and lips. But he gets benedryl, and is better in about 10 minutes. No big deal.

When visiting the preschool on Jan 27th, I asked if food allergies were a problem, and they said not at all. A staff member even mentioned they'd had a peanut allergic child before. I told them very, very briefly about ds's allergies, (even less than in the above paragraph) and they acted shocked that he had 'so many' allergies. This was the first red flag that I missed. Instead of reassuring them that his allergies really weren't a problem, I should have asked more about their policies and procedures.

On 2/3 I stopped by to register ds for their preschool. I gave information about ds's allergies in writing, and reviewed a list of foods they give for snack. I crossed off all the things he couldn't have. It was very few things! The list was maybe 30 items and I don't think I crossed off 10 items. I then asked the procedure for them keeping his emergency medications. He keeps 1 epipen and a bottle of benedryl with him at all times. THIS is when I find out they do not keep medications for the children at the school, and they refused to make an exception in this case. I knew this was illegal, but I didn't think being accusatory was going to help my case. I liked the school, and I wanted them to like me and ds as well. I only live 3minutes away from the school. I told them it worried me, but I'd just stay at home and if he had a reaction they could call me and I'd be right there. I told them he should really get the benedryl within 20minutes of a reaction. I'm not sure what would happen if he went longer than that.

My husband, being the only rational human being left at this point, was not a fan of this plan. Being a man, his solution was to just sneak the meds in ds's backpack on his first day of school on 2/5. And that's what he did. Yep, my husband just put them in his backpack and hoped for the best. OY!!! I work 3rd shift on sunday nights so I was asleep for this med sneaking. That afternoon, I called the school and said I really thought we should research this further. The director of the school said there was nothing to research. They were not licensed to dispense medications, and therefore couldn't hold meds. I tried to make a joke of what my husband did, and laugh about how that obviously wasn't my opinion of a solution. She didn't laugh with me. I mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act, and that my interpretation of the law (take from the department of justice ADA FAQ page) was that schools were required to carry emergency medications for a food allergic child. The director said she would consult with her licensing person and get back to me.

We also talked about what a great day DS had at school. She told me about how much he talked with them about everything even though he can't talk yet. She said what books he liked and how much the other children enjoyed having him around. This part of the conversation made the next day so much worse.

The next day, 2/7, I went to drop DS off for his second day and he eagerly ran inside. He was so excited to be there and it was clear how much he loved it. The director sat me down and said they'd had such a hard time yesterday keeping him safe. She said they'd even had to wipe off the tables and make sure all the kids washed their hands. She thought he'd avoided a reaction by the grace of god alone. She said since they can't keep his meds, it wasn't a safe place for him there. I'm finally clueing into where she's going with this and start totally bawling in the middle of all the kids and other parents. I felt so bad for ds that he couldn't go to such a wonderful place for such a stupid reason. Through my tears in a squeaky crying voice I said, "this really upsets me, because you're refusing to take him." She responded, "we're not refusing him. Please bring him back when he gets better." I cried even more. DS is not ill. He is happily and healthily living with food allergies. He was being discriminated against. I tear up now just writing about it. He screamed with anger the whole way home.

I went home and told my husband. DH said he was fine with ds not going to school, and thought I probably could have made it work if I hadn't told the director about him sneaking in the meds or made such a big deal about the meds not being there. I could have not called her about it. This is all true, but, really, I should have explained about ds's allergies and asked about their procedures when first investigating the school. I'm going to report them to the department of justice, but it seems doubtful anything will come of it. Yes, what they did was illegal, but unless I hired a lawyer and sued them, there's really no consequences for their actions.

I've decided to use this as an oppurtunity to get better about teaching ds myself. I'm actually too patient with him, and I'm also very inconsistant. One day I'll point out colors of everything, and then go without mentioning them for several days. Despite all this, he somehow has learned his numbers and loves it. I know he'd learn a lot more even if I just dedicated ten minutes out of every day to letters and colors, but it still doesn't happen. I've decided to research different projects we can do that teach those things. I may actually do better if it's a big formal activity rather than a ten minute errand, and as he improves I hope it will motivate me to do better.

This school was the only one who would take him at 22months, but he'll be old enough to start the school year at a different school in sept. I'm going to register him on monday, but THIS TIME I know what to ask to make sure it's a good fit. (Or so I think.) If they also refuse him I'm not going to be as disappointed as I was the last time. I've since found lots of ways to enrich our lives. We were already doing playgroups and library programs. I've also joined a gym and he loves their childcare center. It makes me workout everyday because I know how much he needs and enjoys that setting. We're going to make this work. I've always thought the most successful moms were those who could adapt and roll with the punches. I hope I look back on this in the future and appreciate the oppurtunity to improve myself as a teacher and a mother.

1 comment:

  1. "when he gets better" Haha. I have a lot of allergies also, environmental and meds. No food though. There's no "getting better" from them. How stupid are they?