Thought I would share some of the letters I wrote in the early days of this Allergy Mom journey… My efforts to be a squeaky wheel and bring awareness to the need for policies to support our allergic children at school.
I was recently contacted by a woman from Ottawa who is an allergy mom and looking to get some media involvement to share the stories of how parents are trying to work with school boards to make schools safer for children with severe allergies, asthma and anaphylaxis. I went through all of the letters and emails I have written over this past school year and thought I would share them with all of you. Many of these emails have been unanswered yet I persevere trying to get my voice heard. If you know of anyone interested in sharing my stories, please have them contact me. Thank you!
Emails and Letters from The Allergy Mom:
Date: April 23, 2013.
To: Honourable Members of Parliament: Dean Allison, Leona Aglukkaq, Colin Carrie, Djaouida Sellah, Hedy Fry, Rick Dykstra, Tarik Brahmi, Stella Ambler.
Dear Honourable Members of Parliament,
I have just read through the presentation of Motion 230 (Anaphylaxis) from the April 19th debate. As a passionate advocate and educator for Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergy in Canada, I would like to personally thank each of you for speaking to this important health issue. I have been personally affected by anaphylaxis as I have a mother who is severely anaphylactic to bee stings, a son with severe allergies and a young daughter who has had near-death reactions due to her anaphylactic food allergies to all dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. In fact, I believe her story was read at a previous reading of this motion to the house of commons.
As you all know, anaphylaxis is not well understood by those not directly affected but with the dramatic increase in prevalence there have been more stories showing up in the media about this condition. I have been writing to the Minister of Health, Minister of Education, my local MPs and MPPs and appealing to Anaphylaxis Canada and the school boards for greater advocacy, education and reasonable risk reduction measures to be implemented. I run a website for allergic caregivers (www.theallergymom.com), I provide trainings (www.allergysafetytraining.com), primarily to preschool and daycare facilities in the region of Peel through the CRDC here, I have been asked to be the community advocate for Severe Allergy Connect.com which will be launched next month and I have lunched with the president and CEO of Sanofi Canada, Jon Fairest to discuss the launch of the new Allerject epineprhine autoinjector. I am very involved with this community and eager to educate. Unfortunately I often feel as if I am “preaching to the converted” so to speak. I would like to have a voice to speak to the greater public and am hoping that with your support we can make that happen.
I have been bounced back and forth from the school board telling me to contact the ministry and the ministry telling me to contact the school boards. I was very inspired by Ms. Fry’s comments to take action and am writing to you today to offer my services in any way possible to formulate an action plan for educating the public on anaphylaxis, for developing policies and for supporting research.
I hope to hear back from any of you with your suggestions on how I can support the cause and work with you to make this happen.
Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.
Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson) (B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.)
Date:April 21, 2013.
To: MPs, MPPs, Minister of Education, Superintendents
First of all, I would like to thank you for taking a moment out of your busy day to read this email. I have a few items I would like to discuss for your consideration on the topic of Anaphylaxis and Severe Allergy in our schools.
1. Anaphylaxis Canada has sent out the following video as a mid-year reminder for staff and volunteers in schools and I am hoping this is being shared at every school. I really appreciated the points on the importance of supervision, proper cleaning after eating and of being empathetic to parents of children with severe food allergies as to their fears of leaving their children at school. In the schools in my region (Peel), there is often only one parent available to supervise 4-6 classrooms during the lunch hour. This is a huge concern for parents of children with anaphylaxis and other life-threatening conditions surrounding food. In the U.S. children with anaphylaxis are deemed to have a disability and therefore have a 504 plan. In Canada, I would like to see these children also being provided with accommodations of supervision and cleaning for their special health concerns. As far as cleaning is concerned, Anaphylaxis Canada recommends that tables and surfaces should be cleaned yet schools are advising parents that this is not possible. They are told that it is neither the teacher’s nor the custodian’s responsibility to clean up after the children eat. This means that children are eating 3x per day in the classroom without cleaning of surfaces to provide a safe learning environment for these children. You can imagine the anxiety and risk to children with life-threatening allergies to be forced to work in a classroom contaminated by their allergens. I was told that the teacher at my child’s school cannot clean the tables for risk of being liable if she does not do a good enough job and something happens to my daughter. I ask, “Who is liable if nobody cleans it at all?”. The video is an excellent resource which I am sure you are already aware of but just in case wanted to share it here:
10 Tips for Managing Food Allergy in Schools – http://youtu.be/FzxUd-Ey8Xo
10 conseils sur la prise en charge des allergies alimentaires à l’école – http://youtu.be/MeME__KLVFs
2. Re: Epinephrine: I have been trying to contact the board (Special Programs) about this next point but my phone call was not returned. The policy really ought to be that the second epi-pen be taken with students when they leave the building for field trips etc. I was speaking with my paediatric allergist about this as well and she confirmed the necessity of this. The reality is that epinephrine has a 12 % failure rate and often a second dose can be required 10 minutes after the initial dose. You do not want to be away from the school with the second pen sitting in the office.
3. Allerject is a brand new epinephrine autoinjector on the market. It is fabulous. It has voice commands to guide you through the administration of the medication. I have trainers for these if you would like me to come in to schools (staff meeting) and educate your staff on how to use these new devices. Alternatively I could provide an online training video for you.*Update: Allerject is sadly no longer available.
4. I would also offer free of charge an information session at the board office for parents of non-allergic students to address their questions and concerns regarding the requested accommodations at schools for children with food allergies. Please let me know if you are interested in this. I have been providing training for the past few years through the Region of Peel’s CDRC (Child Development Resource Connection) “Raising the Bar” program for preschool and daycare educators in the region and the feedback has been extremely positive with teachers saying they feel much more comfortable after the trainings to have children with anaphylaxis in the classroom. I answer questions regarding administration of epinephrine and reasonable risk reduction measures to prevent reactions at school. The measures including cleaning, and identifying hidden sources of allergens (in craft materials, etc).
5. Exclusion is a very real problem for children with anaphylaxis in schools. As is bullying. There is NO OTHER DISEASE where schools would suggest that children be excluded because of their disability yet with allergy and anaphylaxis children are asked to leave the school on pizza days, or to be excluded from school-wide celebrations such as food parties. At my daughter’s school on valentine’s day, other classes in the school were having parties with cakes, and chocolates and candies and her class did not because of her allergies. While I appreciate this fully as her parent who wants to keep her safe, there is a problem with this approach. The kids in her class are aware of the other classes having these parties and they know that the reason why they don’t have the same party is because of the allergic child. This puts this child in the horrible position of being blamed, teased or bullied by the other children who are upset that they do not get to have the same. I would like to see an emphasis on non-food treats such as books or pencils that promote literacy (pencil grams are a great fundraiser and non-food alternative). I understand that food is a big part of our social culture and that we all like to have treats but I do not understand why schools want the liability of providing treats to children that are homemade. There is no quality control or control over the ingredients with homemade products being brought in. As for packaged goods, there are choices that can accommodate all the children in the school when it is absolutely necessary to have food treats. For example, at my child’s school they replaced the ice-cream party with freezies. I would like to suggest that the schools have only a child’s parents feed their own children. I requested the following accommodation at my child’s school and would love to see this put into policy:
1. First consider a non-food alternative.
2. Second consider a treat that is inclusive of all children.
3. If this is not possible, notify the allergic children’s families with enough time that the family could make alternative arrangements for their child (a comparable “safe” treat).
In my dream world as an allergy mom, children would not eat in the classrooms. There would be a cafeteria or they would eat in the gym and that space would be supervised and properly cleaned. I know that this means there are a lot more children in one space but if there was adequate supervision and cleaning, I think this would be a much better option than contaminating the classroom. I know that this is not financially possible but had to put it out there!
Thank you for your time and consideration of my suggestions. According to Allergen, the nation’s leading Allergy and Anaphylaxis Research institute:
There is an epidemic of allergies like asthma, hay fever, eczema, food and pet allergies and life-threatening anaphylaxis facing the industrialized world, and Canada is near the top of the list of nations facing a growing problem. Nearly one in three Canadians now suffers some form of allergic illness. The health care and socio-economic costs are huge and the potential impact on our next generation is extreme.
These allergies are not going away and are getting worse. EPIDEMIC. This is something we need to really address in our school system.
Thank you for your time and consideration of these matters,
Date: April 12, 2013.
To: Principal of Child’s school
Have you seen this video from anaphylaxis Canada? It is great. It would be great to share with staff.
I was very happy to see this and thought the content was great! Loved the part recognizing the fears of parents to leave their child at school- very good for empathy. I also really liked seeing the direction to leave the child supine as that is very critical and many people do not know that. I also liked the recommendation for cleaning. Personally I would like to see food out of the classroom altogether – cafeterias instead. That way the classroom could be a safer environment. I liked the recommendation for non-food treats to promote inclusion. I would have liked to see a comment about supervision as the reality is many of our schools have the children eating virtually unsupervised with 1 teacher or parent for 4-6 classrooms. I feel very strongly that this is inappropriate for all children with risks of choking and allergies, diabetes etc.
Melissa Scheichl (f. Pearson)
Date: October 21, 2012.
To: Principal of my child’s school
I just wanted to get in touch regarding treats being given out to Kate’s class. As you know it was gum day early last week and I was not notified ahead of time in order to provide a safe alternative for Kate. On Friday, there was a teacher in Kate’s class (not sure who it was -a substitute perhaps -Kate forgets her name) who handed out chocolate pumpkins to all of the students in the class. Kate told her that she is allergic to that and the teacher replied “Oh, I won’t give you any then.” As you can imagine, I found it disconcerting that there was someone in the room who obviously was unaware of the severe life threatening allergies in the class and handing out chocolate which most certainly contains dairy and possible traces of nuts. Kate was very responsible in this situation and we discussed with her how proud we were of her good decision making and her ability to advocate for herself in this case. We had an incident however in the summer where Kate was in a similar situation and made a poor decision, choosing to eat the candy. Thankfully the candy was miraculously safe for her (it was a gummy) and she was o.k. The point here being that she is still a 6 year old child who could have possibly made a bad choice with very serious consequences. Fortunately that wasn’t the case. The teacher told the children that they could eat it outside. According to Kate, the children told Mlle. ____ about the chocolates when she returned to the class.
I would like to confirm that the school will notify me ahead of time for any treats that will be given out at school as per my requested accommodations. By providing that information in a reasonable amount of time beforehand I could then:
a) suggest a safe alternative that would be inclusive for all children in the school and if that is not feasible then
b) suggest an alternative that could be provided for those children excluded from the treat because of dietary restrictions due to medical or cultural/religious reasons. If this also proved to be impossible, then I would like at the very least to have the information so that I can choose to provide a safe alternative for Kate.
I received the newsletter and was aware of the upcoming freezie day for QSP. I really appreciate the Parent Council foregoing the usual ice-cream in favour of this alternative that would be safe for children with dairy allergies. I would like to have confirmation of the date that this will be happening please and to inquire about how the freezies will be opened. It would be dangerous for Kate if a knife or scissors were used that may have been used previously on other food items or food packaging containing her allergens (such as scissors used to open a yogurt tube, or a knife that may have been used to cut cheese or spread butter). I would be happy to come in and assist on the day that this will occur (hoping it is not a day that I’m scheduled to work).
Finally I wanted to discuss the possibility of scheduling a workshop for your staff. My partner Tam and I would love to come in to present our Allergy Safety presentation. I am happy to share the content with you ahead of time to get your approval and to see if you think it would be beneficial for your staff. I met with superintendents and head of special programs last week and they had asked if I had presented to Whiteoaks yet and that has prompted me to try and schedule that with you. The presentation is 2 hours long.
Thank you for your continued support and understanding. With the recent death of a student in Aylmer Ontario, it is another reminder of the need to be diligent in taking reasonable risk reduction measures to prevent anaphylactic reactions.
Date: October 1, 2012.
To: Principal of my child’s school
Wow, October already! I hope you had the opportunity to enjoy some of the beautiful fall colours over the weekend.
I have to teach this week on Wednesday and will be unable to come in for the lunch supervision and cleaning. Is there a person in the school (possibly t.a. Or volunteer) who could step in for me on such occasions? Patrick and I were wondering if we could hire someone to help us with this and what the costs would be? I still plan to come in most days but do have to work and will have other days when I cannot come in (due to travel or staying home if Andrew is sick for example).
As I have been reflecting on Kate’s previous school lunchroom procedures and what made it safe for her there, it was definitely the supervision and cleaning policies in place. We paid for an extra adult in the room (this cost was divided between allergy parents). All allergic kids sat separate from others and their tables were cleaned with paper towel to avoid spreading allergens onto their desks from contaminated cloths. Children were supervised to ensure they all sat down while eating and behaved properly so that food was not unnecessarily spilled or thrown. Children were reminded to wash hands immediately after eating and classroom was cleaned thoroughly- tables AND chairs wipes and floor swept. All staff at the school had taken my training workshop as well so were very knowledgeable on reasonable risk reduction strategies, how to identify reactions and respond accordingly. Students were educated in the importance of appropriate behaviour at lunch and having multiple allergy kids together provided peer moral support.
What are your thoughts on the feasibility of such measures in Kate’s class?
I will be in at noon today if you would like to discuss.
Happy Monday! Thanks,
Melissa Scheichl (f. Pearson)
Date: September 26, 2012.
To: Concerned Parents of Peel
I received a forwarded email from your group -Concerned Parents in Peel, and was wondering if you could help me out. I have a daughter at Whiteoaks Public School with severe, life-threatening allergies and we are working to keep her safe at school. A letter went home asking parents to refrain from sending dairy, eggs, tree nuts and peanuts and this was very upsetting to many of the parents. We are trying to find solutions that can keep everyone happy and our daughter safe at the same time. I would be very appreciative if you could share the following with your parents and to have them contact me to offer any suggestions or ideas. I feel very saddened at the negative response of the community and truly do not want my daughter’s health issues to affect other people negatively. I appeal to parents’ empathies to imagine what they would do if tomorrow their child was at similar risk due to exposure to milk and how they would handle it. I am open to all suggestions and comments. I am currently working with the school boards, MPPs and ministries of health and education to review policies and am looking for input of what’s working in other schools and what’s not. Thanks so much. Here is the email:
I am writing this to you as I have been dedicating the past few weeks to trying to make classrooms safer for children with food allergies. I know that it is difficult for anyone to comprehend the severity of these allergies if you have not experienced this first hand. Please take the time to read this article and to understand what we are trying to prevent. Your support would mean the world to me. Thanks! Please be advised that this article is frightening but I feel it is important for parents in the schools to understand the potential risk to a child with anaphylaxis at school. If you agree, please share this email. If you have any stories to share whether you are a parent of an allergic child or non-allergic child about anything to do with allergies please take the time to email them to me as I’m compiling a collection to study as I prepare to meet with board officials, MPs, MPPs, and hopefully representatives from the Ministry of Health and Education. We need to find a way to accommodate these children without angering everyone in the community by working together with open hearts, open minds and empathy for both sides. The goal here is to prevent incidents such as this one: Deadly celebrations: How food in the classroom endangers your child and what you can do about it . http://www.allergymoms.com/classroom.pdf
- I really appreciate you taking the time to read this article and to contribute your thoughts, stories and experiences as to how we can make the schools safer for these children. I am looking for stories that share the following details in particular:
reactions that have happened in schools
- accommodations that have been put in place to protect children and whether these were successes or failures
- incidences of bullying of allergic kids
My goal is to find out what schools are doing, what works and what doesn’t.
Thank you so much for your support.
Melissa Scheichl (f. Pearson)
Date: September 24, 2012.
To: Minister of Education Honourable Laurel Broten & Minister of Health: Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Dear Honourable Laurel Broten and Honourable Leona Aglukkaq;
I am writing to you today to request your attendance at a meeting I am organizing for school board officials and MPPs regarding anaphylaxis safety in our schools. I have been reviewing the Peel District School Board’s Anaphylaxis policy as well as the document from Anaphylaxis Canada entitled “Anaphylaxis in Schools and Other Settings“. I would like to schedule a meeting to discuss these documents and the accommodations being made in individual schools for students with life-threatening anaphylaxis. In particular, I would like to address the Board’s policies on lunchroom supervision, cleaning of tables for reasonable risk reduction, training of staff, students and education for empathy of non-allergic students’ parents. I would also like to look at policies on foods for celebrations, treats, etc.
I have worked as a teacher in Peel, and completed my Masters in Education degree in 2004. I have been providing Anaphylaxis Safety training for Educational environments in particular through the Region of Peel’s Raising the Bar program for daycares and preschools in Peel Region in conjunction with the CDRC (Child Development Resource Connection). The feedback from these trainings has been phenomenal with teachers expressing greater confidence for working with children with Anaphylactic allergies in their facilities. I am keen to work with Special Programs in the Peel District School Board to recognize these students as having special needs. I have contacted Special Programs in the past offering to help out with their information sessions for parents of students with special needs entering Kindergarten in peel schools. These programs are stated to be for children with documented developmental disabilities, ASD/PDD, physical disability, low vision, hearing impairment or others who may require specialized support or program modification in the school setting. I have been told that Anaphylactic students do not fit into this designation but I would strongly disagree. These children have a life-threatening condition surrounding food which is challenging to avoid in the school setting. They are at risk for life-threatening reactions from food, contaminated surfaces or unsafe craft materials. I would strongly encourage the board to recognize these children as deserving of accommodations to provide for a safe environment at school.
In the newsletter that went home from my children’s school at the start of this school year it states,
“…they must be guarded from accidental exposure to allergens. A tiny amount is potentially fatal within minutes. A trace on a desk, or even a whiff of protein may be enough to cause a violent anaphylactic reaction in which vital body systems virtually shut down. You can help ensure the safety of these students by ensuring that your child does not bring the allergy causing food to school. This is necessary because if one child were to eat a food containing an allergen, then accidentally leave traces on objects in the school, there would be potential danger to the anaphylactic child.”
In this statement, the risks to these students are identified, however there are no standardized approaches to accommodating for the special needs of these children in the schools. Many non-allergic students are aware that nuts and peanuts are not allowed at school yet they are told it is o.k. to eat dairy next to a child with a life-threatening milk allergy. In the case of Sabrina’s Law, we all recognize the risk of even a tiny amount of dairy being ingested by a child with an anaphylactic milk allergy. Anaphylaxis Canada clearly recommends cleaning of surfaces following snacks and lunches yet I am told that it is no one’s responsibility to do that and as a parent of an allergic child, I am required to come in myself and clean the tables if I’m concerned. Anaphylaxis Canada also recommends supervision of young children while eating yet we have no accommodation in place for these children to have this supervision -there is one adult supervising four classrooms providing only intermittent supervision. The risks to a child with anaphylaxis of accidental contact or bullying (which is a very real concern for these children) during these times is a real concern.
I have spoken to the MPP in Kitchner (Michael Harris) and am saddened to see the situation that has arisen there with parents suing the Catholic school board because of accommodations they were trying to provide to a child with anaphylaxis. The community has been divided and the situation has escalated out of control. I worry that leaving individual schools to decipher vague policies and enter uncharted waters will lead to more of these types of situations. I am eager to discuss how we can improve and standardize the policies for making our schools safer for these children.
I would really appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.
Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson)
Date: September 19, 2012.
To: Director of Peel Board of Education Tony Pontes, Trustees, Superintendents, Principals, MPPs, MPs.
I have been reviewing the Peel board’s anaphylaxis policy as well as the document from Anaphylaxis Canada entitled “Anaphylaxis in Schools and Other Settings”. I would like to schedule a meeting with any or all of you to discuss these documents and the accommodations being made in individual schools for students with life-threatening anaphylaxis. In particular, I would like to address the Board’s policies on lunchroom supervision, cleaning of tables for reasonable risk reduction, training of staff, students and education for empathy of non-allergic students’ parents. I would also like to look at policies on foods for celebrations, treats, etc.
I have worked as a teacher in Peel, and completed my Masters in Education degree in 2004. I have been providing Anaphylaxis Safety training for Educational environments in particular through the Region of Peel’s Raising the Bar program for daycares and preschools in Peel Region in conjunction with the CDRC (Child Development Resource Connection) in Peel. The feedback from these trainings has been phenomenal with teachers expressing greater confidence for working with children with Anaphylactic allergies in their facilities. I am keen to work with Special Programs in the Peel District School Board to recognize these students as having special needs. I have contacted Special Programs in the past offering to help out with their information sessions for parents of students with special needs entering Kindergarten in peel schools. These programs are stated to be for children with documented developmental disabilities, ASD/PDD, physical disability, low vision, hearing impairment or others who may require specialized support or program modification in the school setting. I have been told that Anaphylactic students do not fit into this designation but I would strongly disagree. These children have a life-threatening condition surrounding food which is challenging to avoid in the school setting. They are at risk for life-threatening reactions from food, contaminated surfaces or unsafe craft materials. I would strongly encourage the board to recognize these children as deserving of accommodations to provide for a safe environment at school.
In the newsletter that went home from my children’s school at the start of this school year it states, “…they must be guarded from accidental exposure to allergens. A tiny amount is potentially fatal within minutes. A trace on a desk, or even a whiff of protein may be enough to cause a violent anaphylactic reaction in which vital body systems virtually shut down. You can help ensure the safety of these students by ensuring that your child does not bring the allergy causing food to school. This is necessary because if one child were to eat a food containing an allergen, then accidentally leave traces on objects in the school, there would be potential danger to the anaphylactic child.” In this statement, the risks to these students are identified, however there are no standardized approaches to accommodating for the special needs of these children in the schools. Many non-allergic students are aware that nuts and peanuts are not allowed at school yet they are told it is o.k. to eat dairy next to a child with a life-threatening milk allergy. In the case of Sabrina’s Law, we all recognize the risk of even a tiny amount of dairy being ingested by a child with an anaphylactic milk allergy. Anaphylaxis Canada clearly recommends cleaning of surfaces following snacks and lunches yet I am told that it is no one’s responsibility to do that and as a parent of an allergic child, I am required to come in myself and clean the tables if I’m concerned. Anaphylaxis Canada also recommends supervision of young children while eating yet we have no accommodation in place for these children to have this supervision -there is one adult supervising four classrooms providing only intermittent supervision. The risks to a child with anaphylaxis of accidental contact or bullying (which is a very real concern for these children) during these times is a real concern. These are a few of the concerns that I have and would be more than happy to meet with any or all of you to discuss how we can improve and standardize the policies for making our schools safer for these children.
I would really appreciate your time and consideration of this matter.
Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson)
Date: September 09, 2012.
To: Principal at my daughter’s school
Hope you are having a relaxing weekend after what I’m sure was a crazy first week! As you know, I started my course this weekend and the workload is daunting. I am also meeting with clients throughout the week and have scheduled classes that I am teaching in between drop off, lunch hour and pick up. I am unable to come in the additional two times per day for the cleaning of the desks to accommodate the concerns of cross-contamination. I know that you are working for a solution to this problem and I appreciate that. In the meantime, what can we do? I will continue to come in on the lunch hours this week and in the future but there may be days that I have to go downtown or meet with clients and won’t be able to. I also worry about days that Andrew could be sick from school or other unavoidable circumstances that could prevent me from coming in…I would feel more comfortable if we could have someone in the school who supervises the lunch room on those occasions (perhaps a TA could come into the room at that time?)….I know Wendy had concerns about the lack of an adult presence during the duration of the lunch time with Kate so perhaps she can help us think of something for this.
As promised for the letter home to parents here are some items you could include:
**See attached files -great documents from the government explaining and outlining how to accommodate milk allergy, egg allergy and nut allergies
Or these tidbits I have taken from these docs:
“Severe allergic reactions (anaphylactic reaction) occur when the body’s immune system strongly reacts to a particular allergen protein or irritant.These reactions may be caused by food, insect stings and medications. In Canada, the nine priority food allergens are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds, milk, eggs, fish (including crustaceans and shellfish), soy, wheat and sulphites. What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction? When someone comes in contact with an allergen, the symptoms of a reaction may develop quickly and rapidly progress from mild to severe.The most dangerous symptoms include breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure or shock, which may result in loss of consciousness and even death. Severe allergic reactions can occur quickly and without warning. A person experiencing an allergic reaction may have any of the following symptoms:
• Flushed face, hives or a rash, red and itchy skin
• Swelling of the eyes, face, lips, throat and tongue
• Trouble breathing, speaking or swallowing
• Anxiousness, distress, fainting, paleness, sense of doom, weakness
• Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
• A drop in blood pressure, rapid heart beat, loss of consciousness
How are food allergies and severe food allergy reactions treated? Currently there is no cure for food allergies.The only option is complete avoidance of the specific allergen. In your child’s class there is a student with life-threatening, anaphylactic allergies to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. This child’s previous reactions included loss of consciousness from a dramatic drop in blood pressure and a compromised airway to due to swelling of the throat. This reaction was life-threatening and unfortunately a future incident could likely elicit an even stronger reaction in the body. Even traces of these ingredients coming in contact with the skin or through inhalation pose a threat. We know that it is may seem difficult to make changes to the menus you plan for your child’s lunches and snacks to accommodate these allergies in the classroom and appreciate your efforts to make the learning environment safe for this student. It truly can mean the difference between life and death for a child. Here are some suggestions for safe alternatives that you can send with your child for lunches and snacks. A person who is allergic to Dairy is allergic to all foods that contain milk ingredients. This includes yogurt, cheese, and butter. It may seem difficult to imagine alternatives for dairy but there are many delicious and equally nutritious substitutes. What is the difference between a milk allergy and lactose intolerance? When someone has a milk allergy his/her immune system has an abnormal reaction to milk proteins, which may be life-threatening. When a person is lactose intolerant, his/her body does not have enough of the enzyme lactase, needed by the digestive system, to break down the milk sugar lactose. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea after milk ingestion. How can I determine if a product contains milk or milk derivatives? Always read the ingredient list carefully. Milk and milk derivatives can often be present under different names: i.e., casein or whey. Fortunately the Canadian Government is now implementing new food labelling laws to have allergens clearly identified on ingredient labels. Do not forget that cross-contamination, e.g., using the same knife that was just used to spread butter, can also be a potential source of the allergen.
Sample Snack and Lunch Ideas:
All products named can be found at Loblaws in the Health food section.
Use these in place of milk or butter in recipes in equal amounts.
- coconut oil is an excellent substitute for butter and is delicious.
- Earth Balance brand margarine is also a great substitute for butter.
- Vegannaise is an alternative to mayonnaise that is made from soy and is delicious. Try it in Tuna salad sandwiches or anywhere you would ordinarily use mayonnaise.
- rice milk comes in regular, vanilla and chocolate and is a delicious and nutritious alternative to milk. It is fortified with calcium, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and iron. It even comes in “juice box” sizes.
- Enjoy Life Brand has products that are free of the top 10 allergens and are great for school lunches. They have chocolate chips, cookies, granola bars and trail mixes.
- popcorn cooked with coconut oil (tastes just like the movies) -add some sea salt -yum!
- home-made trail mix (cheerios -not nut ones!, enjoy life chocolate chips, raisins, shreddies, -can omit chocolate and bake with oil and seasonings -garlic or other for savoury)
- apple sauce
- soy puddings (chocolate panda one in health section of loblaws is yummy)
- fruit snacks (Welch’s, Fruit to Go, raisins etc.)
- ritz crackers with wow butter (Wow butter is safe-for school peanut butter alternative made from soy -it is delicious and a great source of protein)
- melba toast crackers with hummus
- chips and salsa
- plain potato chips
- pretzels (Loblaws Blue Menu alphabet ones are fun for kids)
- Safe lunch ideas:
- pasta with red sauce and ground beef
- pasta salad with olives, peppers, cucumbers and lemon & olive oil dressing
- wow butter sandwich (Wow butter safe peanut butter alternative)
- tuna sandwich made with vegannaise (try adding raisins -yum!)
- cold cut sandwich with mustard and vegannaise
- all beef wieners
- grilled chicken strips with veggies & poppy seed dip (renee’s brand)
- wrap with grilled chicken, tuna salad with vegannaise, cold cuts and vegannaise, wow butter & honey or wow butter & jam or wow butter & banana)
- pizza! -pita with pizza sauce -pepperoni, olives, diced green peppers, pineapple, any other veggies and daiya dairy free (rice) cheese substitute
- chicken souvlaki style with pita and hummus -cucumbers, red peppers too!
- sheppard’s pie using rice milk in place of milk and earth balance in place of butter
- chicken nuggets (use panko crumbs and rice milk for breading)
- soup: tomato (Imagine brand is cream of tomato without milk -delicious), chicken noodle, habitant pea soup
I would be very happy to offer a workshop for parents in coordination with a nutritionist if they have concerns about what to send their child to school for lunches. If you think this would be of interest. Alternatively I could have a table at the open house for questions which I have done at pheasant run last year. I am happy to provide more recipes also. Let me know if this is enough or you would like any more information.
Date: September 03, 2012.
To: Trustees, School admin, School board officials, MPs, MPPs
To Whom it may Concern,
My name is Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson). I have worked for the Peel District School board for many years and sadly handed in my resignation last week. The reason for my resignation is that my daughter begins grade one tomorrow in a Peel school and I am concerned for her safety.
As I sit here thinking about the kids off to school in the morning, I feel fear and sadness -Kate will be starting grade one and instead of worrying about her meeting new friends and liking her teacher, I worry if she will be safe. No parent should have to fear for their child’s safety at school. I will be there in the morning having volunteered to supervise her classmates washing their hands in case they had peanut, nuts, dairy or eggs for breakfast which likely most children will have had. I have also volunteered to supervise on the lunch hour. Sadly, the school has informed me that it is nobody’s responsibility in the school to wipe the tables after snacks and lunches which are eaten in the classroom and if I wish the desks to be cleaned after eating, I will have to do it myself. I will be spending a good portion of the day, traveling back and forth between home and school.
I worry about other risks to my daughter as well such as the craft materials used. I worry about Kate putting something (i.e., the tip of a pencil) into her mouth that has been contaminated by butter or yogurt hands. I worry about her having a reaction and going to the bathroom and fainting. I worry about all the what-ifs and other fears that are associated with life-threatening food allergies. I plan to appeal to the Ministry to view these children as disabled and to lobby to get support for a teacher’s assistant to supervise Kate. The reality is she can die. Because of food. Which is everywhere. Shouldn’t that be considered a disability?
Reading the current issue of Allergic Living magazine, I relate to the mom’s story entitled “The New Kid” – She describes the challenges she has faced advocating for her son (in the States) to be viewed as disabled for his allergies. At a new school this year she states:
“I feel back to square one in trying to ensure my son is protected and included. Starting over is tough; I feel like I did when John was first going to school. I’ve baked, cooked, been room mom, gone on field trips, attended parties,donated food and snacks, had countless meetings with teachers, and school administrators. It’s exhausting to think I need to roll up my sleeves once more. But my life’s purpose is to protect my children… and I’ll do whatever I can to ensure my food allergic child’s health and safety. EVERY SINGLE CHILD DESERVES TO HAVE A SCHOOL EXPERIENCE THAT IS HAPPY, SAFE, INCLUSIVE AND WORRY-FREE”.
Kate told me today she is scared to start Grade One because of her allergies. No child should feel unsafe or excluded at school.
My name is Melissa Scheichl – I run a website called The Allergy Mom (www.theallergymom.com) and I have resigned my position with the Peel District School Board (as of last week) to devote my time to volunteering in my daughter’s school to keep her safe as well as providing anaphylaxis and allergy safety workshops for teachers and daycare providers in Peel Region as part of the “Raising the Bar” Program for Peel region daycares and preschools. I plan to appeal to the Ministry of Education to view severe life threatening allergies as a disability and provide assistance and support as well as Individual Education Plans (I.E.P.s) for these children to keep them safe at school. If you can support me in anyway, please let me know.
Melissa Scheichl (f.Pearson)
Wow, reading through all of those letters brought back a lot of memories. I was so afraid sending my daughter to school with her allergies. Now that she is older, I have different fears. I’m not sure I would have written those letters the same way today, knowing what I know now but at the time that was where I was at. I thought some of you might like to read them to know that you are not alone in your fears of sending a child with severe allergies to school. If you would like to talk to me about what I’ve learned over the years and get my current advice on how you can speak to school officials to make school safer for your child, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Original Post Date: April 29, 2013 Last Updated: May 5, 2017