Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Peanut-free Protestors Have Gone NUTS!

In Orlando, there is a group of parents protesting restrictions made in the classroom of a 6 year old girl with a life-threatening allergy to peanuts.  These include increased handwashing, rinsing out their mouths twice each day, and not allowing outside food for class parties.  It is also noted that desks (not students) are being wiped down with disinfectant and a peanut-sniffing dog checked out the school over spring break, which was not paid for with tax dollars.  (FYI, I never knew that there was such a thing.)  The article states, "Parents said all the rules are taking time out of the learning process, and they protested Thursday morning outside the school with signs." 

On MSNBC's website, the school's spokesperson stated that some parents believe that the student should be home-schooled.  The article goes onto to report, "Chris Burr, a father of two older students at the school whose wife has protested at the campus, said a lot of small accommodations have added up to frustration for many parents. "If I had a daughter who had a problem, I would not ask everyone else to change their lives to fit my life," said Burr."

First of all, let me state my bias.  Our 6 year old son, PT has a severe allergy to peanuts and treenuts.  He carries epinephrine with him at all times.  He sits at the peanut-free table at lunch with friends who have purchased lunch (which is nut/treenut free) and his teacher monitors all ingredients brought into the classroom and restricts them as needed.  He rides the bus.  He attends public school.  He goes to birthday parties.  However, we do a lot of planning ahead.  We attend or volunteer at a lot of activities. We read every ingredient list and accomodations (more on this in a later post) are put in place to prevent his exposure.  We bring our own cookies or cupcakes when necessary and I organize the snack for his class parties.  Unfortunately, some of those accomodations have been inconvenient to others and we are so very thankful to all of the people along the way that have helped us keep him safe.  Our experience is that most people have went out of their way to make him feel comfortable. 

My other bias is that I am an occupational therapist and have spent a lot of my career working in schools with kids with all kinds of conditions and disabilities.  Every single day, classroom teachers and students make accomodations to meet the needs of children with everything from diabetes, learning disabilities, autism, blindness, giftedness, physical disabilities, hearing impairments, and behavioral issues.  The fact is that reasonable accomodations must be made to provide a free and appropriate education to all students, by law

First of all, I'd love it if my kids washed their hands more frequently at school.  It shouldn't take 30 minutes like one parent estimated.  Kids can read/work independently or in small groups while others take care of this.  Second of all, unlike Mr. Burr stated, you just might ask others to change their life,with "a lot of small accomodations" as he is quoted to say, if it prevented your child from DYING.

Kids with life-threatening allergies DO NOT want to inconvenience anyone.  They just want to go to school, play, and eat lunch like everyone else, safely. They don't want to be different.  They don't want to ask about ingredients. They want to have a cake or cookie from a bakery like other kids.  They just want to go places and have fun like other kids.  They want you to know that if they could, they would never choose to have this condition. 

Parents of kids with life-threatening allergies DO NOT want to inconvenience anyone either.  They want their child to go to school, play, and eat lunch with everyone else, safely.  They don't enjoy reading every single label, carrying epinephrine everywhere, baking every cupcake, or calling ahead/researching before they consider going to a new restaurant or allowing their child to attend a camp or a birthday party.  They don't enjoy asking others what kind of snack will be at the party or after the soccer game.  They would love to jump on an airplane without worrying about what they serve as a snack. These parents do not love asking others to make accomodations for their child so that he/she can participate safely.  They just want for their child to go places and have fun like other kids.  They love their child so much and can't imagine if anything ever happened to him or her. 

Can someone really fight and wave signs and say that a 6 year old child doesn't belong in school because hand washing is infridging too much on their kid's rights and still look themselves in the mirror? If they feel that way about children with peanut allergies, who's next? 

If  "a lot of small accomodations" could save your child, wouldn't you advocate for them too?


Anthony said...

how can I say no? its a reasonable argument. Not familar or close to the particulars of this situation, lacking first hand knowledge, I can't make a judgement if the school has gone "overboard" or not. certainly, it has been played that way in the media - but who trusts the media anymore? what strikes me is that little or none of this was heard of in the 50's, when I grew up, and not a whole lot in the 70's-80's when my five grew up. Now, "it" (allergies, behavorial problems, ADD [I would have been their poster child in the 50's]) seems to be the dominant point of discussion. what, I have to ask, has changed? I am not in denial, just confused between now, and back then.

Dana said...

Anthony -- That's a loaded question. What hasn't changed? Our kids have oversanitized environments, immunizations for nearly everything, processed diets, high fructose corn syrup...so many environmental factors to think about. All possible factors contributing to what you consider overlabeling and/or food allergies that have been on the rise for a decade or longer. So many theories, not enough answers. But to ask what has changed since the 50's? We could talk all day. :)

Anthony said...

and yet, dana, is it fair to point out that the average age keeps creeping up to now 78.5? is that an argument for or against? My kids (5) all made it to adult hood and did all my brothers and sisters, and all my father's and mother's brothers and sisters, without all this overwhelming concern about the environment, food, smoking (I don't), etc. etc. etc. I am not against knowledge or knowing more about these things, I am guarded though about the amount of concern - personal, professional, and governmental - we tend to place on them. and, to show when issues are of a concern to you (meaning, me), if I was President I would tax cigerattes up the hilt.