True Stories - Mary

Mary A.,

Food Allergy Mom

When Mary’s son, Jack, was 10 months old, he was diagnosed with allergies to egg, peanut, and tree nuts. Over the past few years, the allergies became worse, and many more began to surface, such as sesame, sunflower, barley, legumes, shellfish, fish, garlic, mustard, and others. From time to time, managing his multiple life-threatening food allergies and latex allergy seemed close to impossible. Mary and her husband did everything to protect Jack, such as making his own bread, pizza, and cake, and calling manufacturers to carefully check cross-contact with his allergens, and to find out if latex was used in the plant.

In fall 2011, Jack entered kindergarten in a district that is well known academically as one of the best in our area. Unfortunately, she had no idea that she would be up against a tough crowd that did not believe the severity of his allergies and constantly asked for proof. They provided a letter from his allergist that documented this.

As if the allergy wasn't hard enough to deal with, Mary was now faced with an ongoing struggle with the teacher and administration to take the necessary precautions to keep Jack safe. She and her husband and had several meetings with the school staff over the course of the year and the common theme was resistance. What they would encounter over the next few months and beyond was devastating: having his teacher question the allergies after a 504 plan was in place, being spoken to and addressed in an unprofessional manner, and at one point the validity of his latex allergy was questioned. Their hearts were broken, but fortunately not their spirits.

As the months went on, Mary remained professional and articulate despite the negativity. She and her husband continued to reinforce the importance of keeping the classroom a "safe zone." They realized that the latex allergy was not fully understood by the school and that further education was necessary. Thankfully, the American Latex Allergy Association provided good education and resources. Most recently Jack’s allergist referred the family to an environmental specialist regarding the latex allergy. The team was extremely compassionate and reminded them that they were doing a great job keeping Jack safe and educating everyone about allergies to latex and food. They walked away with a feeling of accomplishment.

The school year ended on a positive note and Mary truly hopes and believes the administration has learned a good deal about food allergies and latex allergies. In the end, Jack is already learning how to advocate for himself. He is very articulate and careful, even at the tender age of 6. They came away from this experience with their heads held high, knowing they are doing a great job as parents. The pat on the shoulder was icing on the cake -- allergy-free, of course!

“For those parents out there who face similar challenges, you must be your child's strongest advocate. Hopefully the level of education and understanding will continue to improve for the safety and well-being of children with allergies,” Mary writes.

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