Thursday, December 18, 2008

Ignorance is Not Bliss for Those Dealing With Life Threatening Food Allergies

I had not really had to deal with ignorance or stupidity over the past few weeks (at least not in regard to food allergies), but over the past two days it has flown forward from various different school personnel. The first was a kind and innocent ignorance, a lack of understanding of the true dangers and day to day realities of living with a life threatening food allergy. A few months ago, Natalie's kindergarten teacher had overheard me telling her she could not bring certain food home because of Conor's allergies. She asked, and I explained that, yes, he had a life threatening allergy to peanuts. She expressed her concern, and told me that at a previous school she had worked at, there had been a sign posted in one of the classrooms that no peanuts were allowed. She asked when Conor would be starting kindergarten, and I said, next year, but I did not know where yet because of his allergies. Today when I was dropping Natalie off at school, I had Conor with me and was speaking to Natalie's teacher. She asked if I had decided whether Conor would go to school there next year, and I said probably not, as I did not think the school could be made safe. The poor sweet little thing looked me in the eyes and said it would be ok, I could have him put in her class room, and she would make a really nice sign for the door that no nuts were allowed. It was a very sweet gesture, and I thanked her, but it made me sad to realize that she thought dealing with a life threatening food allergy was as simple as posting a sign on the door. After explaining to her all of the things that went into keeping a child with this medical condition safe - ie epi pen, supervision outside the classroom, etc - she agreed that he probably would not be safe there. I still do not think she understood the entire picture, but at least she realized that a picture on the door was not enough.

Then of course there is the Pre-School that Conor attends. I think the worst sort of ignorance is that where the individual (Dopey the school director and teacher)does not think they are actually ignorant about the situation. Apparently at the school holiday party Dopey has a tradition of making a stone bowl soup. The children and the teachers all make the soup together, and then share it among everyone. Due to my previous efforts the school is sort of "nut free". (foods, not people). I decided to ask Dopey what was in the soup to ascertain whether it was worth trying to make it safe for Conor to try. When I asked Dopey what was in the soup since I wanted to determine whether it would be safe, he looked at me as though I had two heads and was speaking Gaelic. He proclaimed there is no way there could be any nuts in the soup, as it was only made from broth, vegetables, rice, pasta, and some other spices and things. He then had the gall to say that sometimes things have those warning labels on them, but that does not matter. After informing him that it does matter to me, and I am one of those paranoid mother types, I made a mental note to myself to hang out at the school all day tomorrow, and make brownies to feed Conor so he would not notice he could not try the soup. (he does not even like soup - whew)

So, those are my two forays into the pool of educational ignorance.

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