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Eating alone at the nut-free table?

16 replies [Last post]
By TracyC on Tue, 08-23-11, 11:24

My PA/TA son is starting kindergarten in 2 weeks.

I've got the 504 and I feel like medically everything is in place that can be, despite the fact that I get the impression that I am considered a PITA parent. Whatever.

I recently realized that what concerns me the most is the possibility that my son will be set apart. I worry that some day it will be only him sitting at the nut-free table in the cafeteria. In our school the Kindergarteners sit with the 1st graders; the 2nd and 3rd graders sit together etc.

I picture this poor little kid sitting all alone at a big table, looking around at all the other kids laughing and talking.

I worry that he won't be invited to playdates and birthday parties. Actually a 'friend' who has grade-school children (without allergies) told me my son would "definitely" not be invited to certain things because of the nut allergies. And of course I worry about him being bullied later on - I'm assuming kindegarteners don't bully one another yet.

Has anyone had a child go through elementary school who can tell me how it is going to be?

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By Sue-Ellen Osborne-Ramer on Tue, 08-23-11, 17:47

I have a 4 yr old that will be in kindergarten next year and I am worrying about the same things! Good luck :/

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By cass12404 on Mon, 09-12-11, 17:10

My PA daughter sits at a peanut free table and I was worried about her being all alone in kindergarten as well. Her school lets her pick 2 friends every day to sit with her at the table. Since her school does not serve peanut butter she has to pick children who are buying lunch from the school (not those bringing lunch from home). This makes her happy because she is not alone. She is in first grade now and she still gets to pick her friends each day.
In kindergarten she was bullied by another kindergartener for her allergy. A child told her she was going to put peanut butter in her bookbag/lunchbox. She came home crying and was scared for the rest of the year over this. So yes kindergarteners do bully each other.

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By smithdcrk on Sun, 07-20-14, 16:20

For early elementary school we were in a district where the school lunch was peanut & nut free. They offered PB&J but it was Smuckers Uncrustables in factory sealed containers so the kitchen and serving line remained peanut free.

There was a dedicated lunch table, complete with it's own color coded wash bucket and sponges. The Custodian had seen an anaphylactic reaction in a child outside school and had decided that would never happen on HIS watch.

Children were required to sit with their classes. However, non-PA/TNA children could sit at the table with their PA/TNA friends if they agreed to buy the school lunch. This created a atmosphere of inclusion. It was a TREAT to be at the "NO NUTS" table. As a result the table was always full of chatter and children.

When we moved to TX, the response was "haven't lost one yet!" But there were no safegaurds in place. Fortunately, with a 504/IEP the new school must try it "your way" for a specified time. When the plan comes up for renewal, you can negotiate. There was no policy in place for nut free table, so we compromised with a nut-free end.

Ironically this was the least inclusive environment. Yes, she was at the table with her classmates. But, the nut-free end was not the side the girls sat (they sat at the wall end). The "safe zone" was near the center aisle where the teacher could supervise her. The school lunches served peanut products and the district made us sign something saying we understood the school could not guarantee her safety if she ate the school lunch. No Problem! We will bring.

My girlie girl landed soundly in "boy land." One or two mothers told me they were informed by their sons that lunches needed to change! They sat next to K and they had to protect her from PB&J. However, kids are kids and there were several days each week that she sat at the corner with no one across, and no one next to her. In the safe zone at the edge of the group, our extrovert withdrew.

In third grade we adapted the plan so she could sit among the girls, but no one next to her or across could have peanuts or nuts. If everyone had PB&J she was allowed to sit at another table without having to cash in any of her "Good Behavior" points. But the damage was done. She was the high maintenance one, there were few children willing to give up there PB&J. Not an extrovert anymore.

In sixth grade that changed. She found new friends from other elementary schools that not only gave up their PB&J to be with her, but became her staunchest supporters and advocates. While she is still considered shy or closed in new situations, her self confidence blossomed and she treasured those that sat with her.

What was the difference? We have always had great school nurses. In fact at the second elementary school the school nurse used to come sit with her because few youngsters wanted to miss a chance to eat with the beloved nurse. A lot has to do with the admin's attitude. Is an allergy safe zone a burden or a calling? The first school made it a calling. Educate your friends, and those that step up gather together. Kids can have PB&J but in specific zones. They way we introduced it at the new elementary school with the imposed 504 safe zone put her outside her peers. She was the exception, she was different, she was excluded. In middle school, it was her friends that implemented the safe zone - a grass roots, peer initiated operation. Do some come with PB&J? Yes, but I understand a merry do-si-do insures everyone settled and included.
No one feels edged out.

Moving into HS this year. Since MS 504 update she has been "licensed to carry" not just her complete emergency kit, but her cell phone everywhere. A new change for HS: she switched to the smaller AUVI-Q in case a parent or trained educator is not present for a reaction. With the increased distances for cross country, she also carries that and her phone in a small pouch originally designed for "Goo packs" and ipods. It blends in so well under her shirt that her coach did not know she was "carrying." The new coach also thinks of keeping her safe as a calling and is known for her teams' positive attitudes and mentoring.

By robyn on Mon, 09-12-11, 18:02

My son is in 1st grade and was all alone at the peanut free table on the 1st day of school. :( Once I pointed it out to the teacher, she immediately corrected it by allowing a friend to sit with him the next day.

I don't think your son will definitely not be invited to things because of his allergy. A lot of it has to do with personality. I was very shy as a kid and left out of stuff because of that. My son (w/ PA) was invited to more bday parties last year than his best friend (non-PA) because my son is more outgoing.

I totally understand where you are coming from, though, because I've had the same fear but so far I've not had that issue at all.

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By TracyC on Sat, 09-17-11, 10:50

Thanks Robin and Cass.

Cass - That is disturbing to hear your daughter was bullied in kindergarten. Do you mind me asking what the school did about it, if anything?

Robyn - I'm so sorry for your little guy, sitting all alone that first day :(

To update, the paraprofessional (what the teachers' aids are called here in MA) is in the cafeteria with the kids for lunch. During orientation I asked her/told her my concern and she said a child would never end up sitting alone - that it would never happen.

I believe the para has been selecting a child to sit with my son at the table each day. K and 1st sit together and there are about 5 kids total at the table (I think - trying to get info out of my kindergartner is difficult!)

So far I have been very happy with our school. The teacher is very willing to accommodate our allergy, the other parents I spoke with were very understanding (one even said to me my son doesn't like PB so he can always sit with your son at lunch) and the cafeteria person spoke to me for a 1/2 hour -showed me labels, the RN put everything I wanted on the 504 etc.

We are really lucky here in MA - many of the schools are very progressive in dealing with LTAs and have strong policies in place. I know that the policies won't always be followed, but I feel pretty confident they will keep my son safe. Although I did want to add that I did request a 504, did not let up, spoke with everyone I could and let myself be very known. And I will be be accompanying him on all field trips.

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By Dasha1128 on Fri, 10-14-11, 22:54

I am sorry that young children are bullied for peanut allergies. Sadly, it is another thing on the list of things children are being picked on for. However, as the parent of a child who only eats PB (and believe me I've tried adding variety) I resent the fact that one child's medical issues dictate the policy of an entire school. Doesn't my child also have rights to eat what they want?

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By Freddy on Sat, 10-29-11, 01:31

My son is in first grade. On the first day of school in Kindergarten, he sat alone because the lunch staff worried about his allergy. Since then, he sits at a peanut free table and anyone who is not eating pb is welcome to sit at his table. He does not ever eat alone. We did have an issue with exposure this year, however. He became friends with a child who eats pb everyday and he was being exposed by the child touching his face at recess after lunch. I spoke with the staff, and now the kids who eat pb are wiped down/ or wash their hands after they eat. It has been working very well.

Dasha, I don't see in anybody's comments here anything about peanut free policies at their schools. This discussion is about keeping the pn allergic kids safe in a school where there is pn in the cafeteria. A pn/tn free policy is up to the individual school. My son's school serves pn butter in the cafeteria every day. I realize that pn butter is a very economical, picky eater friendly shelf stable option. In my son's case, he was recently hospitalized over peanut exposure, which is why the new wipe down/ hand washing policy is in place. As extreme as it seems, it is the only way he can be safe at school, and every child has a right to be safe in school.

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By Winchesterrk on Wed, 09-04-13, 02:58

I understand where you are coming from but imagine if it was your child's life that is at risk! I think the safety of a child is a little more important than your child having to have PB!

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By Nutsaboutnuts on Fri, 08-10-12, 18:13

I have just heard about turning the tables (so to speak) and instead of having the allergy kids ostracized, have a special table for the kids who bring in peanut/tree nut products for lunch. Genius!!

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By coldfusion1205 on Tue, 09-04-12, 21:43

Our PA son was in Kindergarten last year and he sat at a peanut free table with one other PA child. I asked for a 504 plan and was told that a peanut allergy alone does not qualify. My son's epi-pens were stored in the Nurses office and the school serves PB as a lunch choice. Our K program was all day every other day and each one of those days I worried. I worked with the other moms planing the class partys and attended all partys. This year my husband and I decided to try and on-line school so we know our son is safe and he loves it.

To Dasha: I understand that PB is a favorite food for so many kids. I love PB and ate it often until my son became allergic. My son had one bite of PB at the age of 2 and went into anaphylaxis and had to be rushed to the ER. I know PB is a good food for many but it is a poison for our kids and any exposure can kill them. Ask yourself this would you want your kids around anything that could kill them?

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By Joann on Sat, 09-15-12, 18:25

my district also has an elementary school that has decided to make a peanut table vs a peanut free table. If a child chooses to bring in pb&j they sit at a peanut table. Totally fair after all that child has a choice the child with the allergy does not.
Dasha are you opposed now to YOUR child being subjected to sit at a special table or are you ok with that? Hopefully he or she will be able to find someone kind enough to sit with her, or maybe she/he will have to sit alone. I bet that if your child had to sit alone for a few days she might find some other foods to eat besides peanut butter. You do realize most kids with a peanut allergy could die if they ingested peanuts and were not immediately treated. There are alternatives to Peanut butter, sun butter is very similar.

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By Joann on Sat, 09-15-12, 18:44

Also to Dasha
my child's 2nd grade class has 10 children out of 60 with nut allergies. So we are not talking one child but even if we were why should that child sit alone simply because he has a food allergy ?

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By Nutsaboutnuts on Sat, 09-15-12, 19:59

To Dasha and to other parents with non- allergic kids.... Yes, all children have rights, but when the issue is about safety then I believe that must take precedence. These allergies are LIFE threatening. Providing a lunch other than PBJ for your child may be a nuisance at first, but at least it isn't life threatening to your child. We must find other foods that are suitable (both my boys Are picky eaters) in order to provide a SAFE environment for all children at school. This can provide you with a wonderful teaching moment with your kids and to better educate them about food allergies and what can happen to a child if pn/tn are ingested. What a wonderful thing to teach your child empathy and understanding of kids who suffer from these allergies. Good luck!

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By tomanyfoodalergies on Fri, 09-20-13, 15:24

I am not sure if this the right place but my daughter doesn't have to eat alone but they have snack time in class and if a child brings something that has nuts or may contain them they have to put them back and cant eat them. my daughter only has a reaction if she eats them. I already told the school and her teacher that but the kids that cant their snack is giving her the cold shoulder and saying its her fault that they cant have their snack. how do I get the school to understand that having something with nuts or may contain them wont hurt her. please help.

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By cmarie234 on Sun, 09-22-13, 16:56

Last year, when my PA daughter started kindergarten, her allergist at Johns Hopkins said that at her age she did not have to have a nut free table. The social isolation was more of a risk now (the allergist also has a food allergy child). At this age, kids usually, and should, understand their allergy and know that they cannot eat or touch other kids' foods. And the other kids in her class were educated to know that they cannot touch her food. However, my daughter was not comfortable with that because she went to a peanut-free preschool and I had so far not aloud her to sit next to anyone eating PB. So she had an assigned seat at the end of one of the tables with no one aloud to sit next to her or across from her who had peanut anything. However, at the end of the year I found out that she spent some lunches eating alone, even though I was assured by the school nurse that this would never happen. It broke my heart, of course.

This year she takes a placemat with her everyday to eat off of. She is more comfortable now and does not have an assigned seat.

My problem is that the school does not want to comply with what our allergist did put in my daughter's allergy plan: that each student either wash their hands or use a wipe after eating lunch. During kindergarten, they reluctantly complied with me providing wipes and them ASKING students to use a wipe if they had PB. This year when I showed up with the wipes I got eye rolling and a real fight from the nurse's office. Luckily, the principle has a grandchild with a food allergy and was OK with doing as we did last year. I am now on a mission to make it a county regulation that students must wash their hands or use a wipe (a baby wipe, no antibacterial or harsh chemicals needed) after eating lunch or snack. Freddy - I hope you don't mind if i use your exposure incident as an example of what I am concerned about.

My daughter was bullied in kindergarten. One of her "bffs" had PB for lunch but did not wipe her hands. My daughter told her she could not play with her or touch her until she had done so, which is a very appropriate thing for my daughter to say. Her "bff" responded by smacking my daughter on the chest open handed. When I told the school they said they could do nothing because the "bff" denied it. Go figure!

Dasha - my daughter is a very picky eater as well, oral sensory processing issues, so I know what it's like to deal with that issue too. If your school has gone nut-free, I have found Sun Butter to be a close substitute for PB. However, I am sorry you have resentful feelings. It might be more helpful to your child to teach them about being a good friend and responsible member of the community. For example, being respectful of those with life-threatening food allergies, keeping his food to himself, and cleaning up after eating. Your child will absorb and then reflect your feelings, and I'm sure you don't want him to become a food allergy bully.

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By Positive allergies on Sat, 07-19-14, 00:49

I'm so confused..."a peanut free table" seems to be backwards. At our school, there is a friendship room. Any child that brings an item that is not safe...eats there. This means that the consequence for not bringing safe foods falls to the offender and their family and not the child who has the allergy. It also keeps the offending foods in another part of the school.
Can u all suggest this? It is NOT perfect but works out great socially. The children police themselves and remind each other when they must go to the other room. If not, an adult is there to help.

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