29.10.11

I did not want to be the allergy pioneer parent.

Six has an invisible illness. He has life-threatening allergies to peanuts, egg, and milk. He is also allergic to dust mites, flowering grass, and pet dander. And he has hay fever and eczema. It's a daily struggle for us.

Allergies are so difficult to explain to someone who hasn't dealt with them. People just don't understand.

I realised there would be hiccups when Six started school. But I didn't want to be the allergy pioneer parent.

In Six’s first year, risk minimisation was left to his teacher, and it worked out fairly well. But this year his teacher didn't have the same level of vigilance or interest.

Then the unthinkable happened. Six had an anaphylactic reaction—to a sandwich that I'd packed in his lunch.

The school didn't contact Adam or me. It was Six who told me what had happened. So, I spoke with his teacher. She was defensive and denied it was anaphylaxis.

I was surprised Six's teacher didn't recognize anaphylaxis. But I was determined to work through health and safety issues with the school.

Adam and I spoke with the principal, and I worked with the school’s public health nurse to document an emergency plan for Six.

Things didn't improve. Six faced bullying about his allergies from his classmates, and shockingly—from his teacher.

I talked again with Six’s teacher and principal. And I wrote several letters of complaint to the school. The school’s position is that Six doesn’t have “life-threatening” allergies. (Because we haven't provided the school with an EpiPen.) They believe Six is faking illness (e.g., fever) to get out of doing “difficult” work.

I don’t have the words to describe how traumatic this year has been for our family. I am disappointed in the way the school has responded to our concerns, and I'm worried about the impact this year has had on Six.

The complaints process has been a dead end. I don’t see any willingness to work on the classroom or the school culture. The only solution available to us is to move to a different school.

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