Today's post is written by my friend and food allergy mom of 3 boys and learning differences advocate Hillary Jarrard. When my son was first diagnosed with food allergies, I immediately turned to Hillary for her experience and wisdom of raising kids with allergies. She was so helpful in pointing out brands that were allergy-friendly, along with how to deal with the emotional side of this new way of life. I was so grateful to have someone who had walked this difficult road before me to help guide me through.
One of my biggest joys as a mom of a kid with food allergies is seeing my son’s happy face enjoying an allergy-free treat at a party celebration with his friends. My saddest days? Learning that they were left out of a classroom treat because I didn’t have advance notice to send an allergy safe treat. Heartbreaking.
It’s not easy being a kid with food allergies. As a mom of 3 boys with food allergies, I have to constantly communicate with their teachers and be vigilant about their needs. Befriending the teacher helps so that she could let me know in advance when an upcoming class party was going to happen. Most teachers will accommodate. For their dedication to the safety of my child, I wanted to recognize those teachers for the extra time and effort that went into contacting me. In addition to the Christmas and end of the school year gift, I started giving his my child’s homeroom teacher a couple of small gifts under $5 throughout the year. Who doesn’t love and remember someone who brings them a gift?
I bring a gift to thank the teacher that recognizes food allergies as a serious health issue. Many teachers don’t realize how hard this food allergy journey is for my child. A gift encourages the teacher’s awareness of who my child is in the classroom and helps them remember my child more often.
In doing this, I often remind myself that I am paving the way for future students with food allergies. As a teacher becomes increasingly aware of food allergies, she the teacher can develop a routine of how to protect each child. She could assign a volunteer at class parties to read the ingredient labels on store bought treats to look for allergens, to make sure that kids with food allergies get their correct substitute treat, and to look out for a kid who might feel sad when he or she the child is having a snack different from everyone else. My hope is that schools would adopts a school wide non-food classroom celebration policy replaced by games and toys. Until then, I will continue promoting food allergy awareness one teacher at a time.
By Hillary Jarrard