This is an article from the Melbourne “Age” newspaper on Saturday the 13th of May, which talks about the unnecessary death from anaphylaxis of a four year old in childcare. The adjacent article, talked about the lack of training and focus provided in the early learning environment.
Our personal experience with child-care, kinder and school has been reasonably good, though not so for a couple of our friends with food allergy kids.
Bella attended two different kinders (pre-schools) for 3yo and 4yo, and now attends school. Three year old kinder was a joy. Bella had a delightful teacher who was caring, compassionate and went to lengths well over and above the “norm” to ensure Bella abd the other two kids in her class with severe food allergies were cared for and managed appropriately. This was especially noted during Easter, were she had special presents in place of eggs and changed the egg blowing/decorating activities for “safer” alternatives. Nuts were banned altogether and children were not to bring cakes and other foods to celebrate their birthday. I felt confident and at ease with the situation in general.
Fortunately we moved Bella to another Kinder for the 4 year old class. The other two allergy kids stayed on to the 4yo class, with a different teacher to 3yo. The new teacher quite literally persecuted these poor kids. They were excluded from activities, being made to sit on chairs away from the other children – as if being punished; they were publicly ridiculed by the teacher, who encourage the other children to redicule the “allergy kids”; the children felt generally harrassed and did not want to go to kinder anymore; activities involving food continuted and the “allergy kids” excluded, cakes were brought to class and instead of sending the parents home with the cakes (as they were banned), she allowed them to be eaten (she didn’t want to upset the parent who has cooked!!); they were generally made to feel unwelcome. (It still makes me furious to think about it!)
When parents raised their concerns, they were not addressed. The teacher, upset that the parents had taken their issues to a higher level, then sent threatening letters to the parents and things spiralled out of control from there. Naturally the parents removed their children from the kinder.
Eventually goverment department stepped in, and the teacher was banned from working with children again. I guess this scenario could be viewed as a “bad egg” situation, rather than an allergy specific situation, but it made us think twice about things with Bella.
Another friend’s child-care centre fed her egg & nut allergic boy quiche. She arrived to pick him up after work, obviously ill and covered in hives. When she quizzed them about what they had fed him they said, “No, we definitely did not feed him egg, he ate quiche for lunch.” HELLO!!!!
Compared with her early years, school has been more of a challenge in some ways and less in others. Stressing the importance of the situation and creating the focus with teachers has taken time and effort on behalf of Peter. I’m sure sometimes we may be viewed of over-protective overly-cautious parents – which we are – but I believe understandably so. Bella now has a better understanding and can self-manage better each day. I don’t look forward to her teenage years… though with any luck, her allergies may have dissapated somewhat by then.
For every occassion were Bella has been left out because of fear or uncertainty about her allergies, there has been another occasion where poeple have gone out their way to accomodate her condition.
It still concerns me that the message about how serious this type of condition can be rests with the parents of the kids, and that the government has not stepped in and provided guidelines, training and information to our child-care and education work-force.
Food allergies appear to be on the rise. We need to protect our kids, give them a safe environment in which to learn, and the freedom to explore, experiement and gain their indepenence safely. To do that, teachers, carers and the general community need to be aware.
When parents say no to lollies – sometimes they are not being mean. Sometimes one little lolly will hurt.
One in three Australian children are affected by allergy disorders.
- Eight foods cause 90 per cent of food allergies: cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, peanuts, soybeans, nuts, fish and shellfish.
- Egg allergy is the most common food allergy in Australia, affecting 3 per cent of children. However, the most common allergy documented at the Royal Children’s Hospital is to nuts.