First Grader Hates School-anxious about allergies

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 1:44pm
PinkPoodle's picture
Joined: 06/12/2007 - 09:00

I hesitated posting, but I'm at a loss right now.

My daughter just turned 6 and is one of the youngest (maybe the youngest) in her class. She is by far the smallest (she looks at least a year younger than her peers). She was very outgoing in preschool and easily made friends. Kindergarten she had plenty of friends, but seemed a little more quiet than her typical-self.

Now in 1st grade, she is shy, withdrawn, unsocial. Initially, she expressed a fear of having an allergic reaction at school (first year having lunch at school). We repeatedly assured her that there were many safeguards in place (peanut-free table, aide to assist her/hold her meds at lunch and recess, knowledgeable teacher, peanut-free classroom, etc..). I also thought (my mistake) that there would be other girls at the peanut-free table. After meeting their parents at a school allergy orientation-type of meeting, I realized that was not the case. The other girls' parents were saying their children's allergies weren't that "severe" and opted out of the peanut-free table. One day one of the peanut-allergic girls wanted to sit at the peanut-free table, but she ended up being moved by the lunch monitor as she was eating M-n-Ms with a "may contain" label.

So, for the past week my daughter has been eating at the peanut-free table with 2 or 3 other boys. The boys sit at one end and she is at the other (I think she sits down and then they sit down). She can invite others to sit with her, but hasn't (seems very reluctant to do so) invited anyone. I think she isn't initiating that because, according to her, no one wants to play with her at recess. She said the kids have told her she cannot play with them (her friends from last year). Her teacher noticed she has been alone at recess...we just talked about this today and the teacher is going to try to have others join my DD at the peanut-free table. The teacher wasn't aware of the lunch situation because she isn't there at lunch. The teacher also said my daughter seems very tired and puts her head down during class.

The difference in my daughter is quite disturbing. She seems so unsure of herself and miserable. She had been crying when we dropped her off. Now, I think she is holding it in to 'fit-in' at school. She has been crying herself to sleep every school night [img][/img]

I had been volunteering (there were about 6 moms volunteering to get the 1st graders accustomed to the cafeteria) at lunch the first week of school and my DD would sit at the peanut-free table and look at her food (food we provide from home). She would take 1-2 bites and then just look down.

Over the years I have wondered if we should keep DD back (due to her birth date and small size---now I'm thinking also maturity/stamina, I don't know) in school. I worried we started her too soon. Academically, she is advanced, which I think might be why her preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers said she was ready to move up. I'm not concerned about her academics. We can supplement in that area.

Did anyone else's child have this difficult of a transition? Did it improve? I know we are only a week into school, but it is awful to watch this.

DD is also having daily eczema flare-ups (I won't call it hives) on her face---they haven't been there at the start of lunch, but when I pick her up an hour and half later, they are clearly evident. She's had Benadryl after school 3 of the 5 days due to this 'flare-up'. Her pediatrician saw her after school for a regular check-up and saw her face. She said she will talk to the allergist (DD has an allergy appointment in 2 weeks).

We're thinking of taking her out of school and placing her in a private kindergarten and attempting 1st grade next year when she is a little older. That might be the wrong decision. I just don't know what to do.

The other contributing pieces to this: she is the only peanut-allergic one of seven in the grade to have a 1:1 para for lunch and recess. I'm not sure how close the para is during recess and if that is inhibiting natural play. BTW, we did not request an aid for DD.

In the morning, DD is not able to run around for morning recess (between drop off and the bell for school start). This came up in the 504 accommodations meeting and the team felt the morning recess was too chaotic (there are about 500+ students ages 5 to 10 running around the playground with a handful of monitors). DH and I decided we would bring her to her class line and stay with her until the bell rang rather than the school providing a para for that short time (10 minutes max). Again, I think she is the only one in her grade with this restriction.

The school has decided that my DD has "the most severe" allergy. She is not the only one with a history of anaphylaxis, but the only one with a history of aerosolized reactions (not anaphylactic to aerosolized exposures). She is a Class 6, according to her CAP/RAST, but I doubt she is the only one. I am guessing we have been the most vocal parents regarding certain things at the school (we were told last year we were the "most difficult). Everyone at the school has been great this year (new teacher, new principal, same 504 coordinator), so I am beyond thrilled with that.

This is a perfect example of balancing safety with normalcy. I think we are missing that balance [img][/img] Is that balance even possible?

Thank you. I typed much of this through tears. I hope someone can understand how I'm feeling; it is hard to explain.

[This message has been edited by PinkPoodle (edited September 05, 2007).]

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:08pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

I just wanted to say *something*. Haven't BTDT, since we homeschool M, but what you are describing has always been in the back of my mind when I read about peanut-free tables.
Back before we had to withdraw from pretty much everything, M was a social butterfly -- happy, sparkly, everybody's favorite.
Now, though -- M has been *way* ahead of the curve for several years -- to the point where I wonder if it wouldn't be a handicap, socially. Would kids line up to sit at the peanut-free table, or would M have to deal with the loneliness along with everything else?
I can imagine all too clearly what you are describing, and it breaks my heart.
Please let us know if there's anything we can do from outside the situation -- a little note or gift or something...? A Gaks-Snack-a-gram from a secret pal?? (We wouldn't even have to know who you are in real life - we could just coordinate it with Jill. Seriously.)
At least I can bump this for the morning crowd...
Please let us know how it goes.

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:12pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I'm so sorry. [img][/img]
When they are soo sensitive, 'normal' just doesn't look the same as it does for everyone else. {{{hugs}}} to her.
It doesn't sound as though her age is what's getting to her, though-- it sounds as though it is the arm's length distance at which her classmates are being kept. Maybe, anyway.
Why can't someone be with her during the morning recess? I mean, I understand that it is chaotic, but it seems like that is setting the tone for the remainder of each day and preventing her from really interacting with her peers.
It is also alarming that her eczema is flaring up like that. Please be careful with this-- we also thought we knew what an aerosol reaction could do and look like. We did NOT.
Is your school still serving peanut products? Or allowing them?
My heart just breaks for your little girl. Can she talk to her teacher about what's bothering her? (You might hear different things if she's telling someone besides you, is what I'm thinking.... she might admit things that she'd never want to tell you.)
I also just wanted to tell you that you might try increasing her sleep by about 1/2 hr or so at night-- my friend needed to do this with her DD when she started first grade, too, and FA and being young had nothing to do with it (her child has asthma, but is one of the [i]oldest[/i] i her class). She was simply worn out from it all. For the first three weeks, her DD would come home and literally melt down. Once they get older, they play HARD, and the social interactions are much more complex-- it [i]is[/i] exhausting. Eventually they started putting her in bed 1 hr earlier (at 7 PM) and all the problems went away within a week, and she stopped saying nobody liked her, etc. etc. Not saying that this is 'the solution' for your child-- just that it might be ONE peice of the puzzle.
Maybe she just doesn't feel rested enough to cope well?
(Just thoughts-- I really don't know what the answer is.... but I don't think that loosening your comfort zone is it. Not with an aerosol-sensitive kid.)

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:26pm
PinkPoodle's picture
Joined: 06/12/2007 - 09:00

Thank you, MsMom and CorvallisMom for replying so quickly.
I think my DD is genuinely tired. We aim for 8 PM bedtime, but she has been awake much later (crying/worrying). Tonight we put them in bed at 7:45 PM. Tomorrow night, we'll move it to 7:30, so she can at least start to wind down earlier. Her feeling so tired could absolutely be contributing to her overall feelings about the day.
The only aerosolized reaction my DD had was when we walked by a peanut roasting machine in a store. She had obvious hives on her face and chest and they cleared quickly with fresh air (I'm not even sure she needed Benadryl that time). The eczema flare-ups concern me. They concern me as it is clear she is reacting to 'something'. It also concerns me that no one from the school has mentioned them to me. I noticed when I picked her up, my mother noticed one day when she was with me, and my DD's pediatrician noticed when she saw DD about 1 hour after school let out. I have not brought this to the school's attention yet...for some reason (I don't have a good reason---just trying to keep a low profile, I guess). I thought I'd check with the allergist in a couple of weeks. Maybe I need to bring her down to the nurse's office when I pick her up and show her. I've been trying not to make a big deal about it so that my DD doesn't get more anxious (DD says her face isn't really itchy; she said it feels dry and denies other symptoms). The school does not serve peanut products, but children can bring peanut products into the cafeteria from home.
I need to get to bed, but I appreciate your replies. I have to think this through more when I'm well-rested and less emotional.

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:28pm
Sarahb's picture
Joined: 01/22/2007 - 09:00

I have no advice...just hugs! If my boy was at that school he would sit with her and make her smile.
I think the posters above had some good ideas.
I'm just really sorry and would love to send her something too.
I hope tomorrow is better. [img][/img]

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 2:50pm
Gail W's picture
Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

I'm so sorry PinkPoodle. Your 1st grader sounds a lot like my Mariah when she was 6. It broke my heart when she would cry at night. So much our little ones have to cope with. . . it's just too much some times. And finding that balance requires such constant evaluation. . . . it's sad when we see how our efforts to afford them safety affect our wee one negatively.
Our kindergarten teacher kindly spoke to me about "anxiety disorders". . . at first I was a little shocked at the suggestion, but I learned a lot reading on line. Just a thought. . . as I found it helpful in our situation.

Posted on: Wed, 09/05/2007 - 9:51pm
maddiesmom's picture
Joined: 12/20/1999 - 09:00

I just wanted to say that reading your post, it was like I had written it back when DD was in 1rst grade! She was EXACTLY like your DD-her bday is the beginning of Aug, she is petite and looks so much younger than kids in her grade. She is academically sooo strong, but socially so very young. She suffered the same in the 1rst grade, and we had to really get involved. She started going to a "girls group" that met 1x a week with the counselor-it helped her to gain some social skills that other girls in her grade were having. They would play games, sit and talk and had a topic a week. They would meet for just 1/2 hour and she learned a lot from it. DH and I also talked about holding her back a year, but the school said she would eventually catch up socially and that she was really doing well otherwise.
BUT, saying all of that, she is now in the 4th grade and still REALLY socially struggling, feels like she still isn't "normal" and has her pity party days a lot. She now feels more overwhelmed with the increase of homework, the lack of organization that 4th graders need to have, and top it off with her daily things she has to do with her accomodations for allergies---it's not been a good couple of weeks so far. Every day it seems I am angry at her for something she lost, forgotten homework, etc. She is really struggling socially (academically she is soaring)...but still after all these years.
Looking back, I truly think we should have held her back and I am kicking myself for not doing it when she was younger, it would have been much easier on her. I could have just supplemented and challenged her at home with school work, but at least she could have been more on cue with the social aspect.
My advice is really listen and look at your child. Talk to the teacher, see if she can meet with the counselor at school, and then see what they all have to say. You know your child best, and that is what is important. If you think that one more year of a shorter school day, smaller setting, etc. will help her, that may be the way. I certainly don't want to try to tell you what you should do.. but I wish someone would have told me this WAY back then. There is more to school success than just doing well on tests and homework, there is that huge social piece that gets forgotten sometimes.
Good luck and you will be in my thoughts. I know how hard it is and how it is just breaking your heart to see her like this, I was just like you. (sorry to go on and on, but your post really struck a cord with me tonight).

Posted on: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 1:30am
jami's picture
Joined: 09/02/2004 - 09:00

I just wanted to say I'm sorry and I hope things get better.
My older son last year was the only kid at the peanut free table--until we made a schedule. Every parent in his class was sent a letter explaining the lunch restriction and asking their permission for thier child to sit at the table--and their help in sending peanut/nut free lunches--or reminding their student to only get the hot lunch serving--not the uncrustable or pb cookie. A little over half the class returned their forms. I (helping the teacher) made a scedule for the rest of the year. --plus my son was able to get to know a few more kids than he would have normally.
This year -2nd grade--the teacher had the letter out at Back to school night with a calender and parents signed their student up for the 1st tuesday of the month--ect.. We still were surprised at the amount girls that are stil signed up--we wonder when that will change.
This works for now --Just wanted to send out an idea.
Best wishes.
Michelle mom to:
DS #1- 7 - peanut, tree nut, asthma,environmental allergies
DS-#2- 4- Milk, Peas, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Asthma, environmental allergies

Posted on: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 2:17am
McCobbre's picture
Joined: 04/16/2005 - 09:00

Oh--I was reading your post through tear-filled eyes.
Can you talk with the aide and get her take and perhaps determine if she is hindering DD's interaction with others? I do think the morning play helps some, too. I am wondering why other teachers can't be trained to use the Epi so your DD could go earlier if she felt comfortable doing so.
There are times when DS has been alone (I think he might be this year if the other PA child who last year sat with everyone else decides to do so again). His pf table is physically separated from the other tables, unlike at his old school where it was at the end of of a long row of tables. I think kids are less likely to move to an entirely different area. Could a similar set up be a contributing factor in her eating alone at lunch?
I don't think she should have to invite kids if she's struggling with this. I'm glad the teacher is helping out today, but I hope in the future other children are encouraged to sit there.
I'm not sure why teachers tend to remove themselves from the social experiences of their students. Perhaps I do to some extent, but when you hear your child crying at night over and over about not playing with anyone at recess, it is so heartbreaking, and you'd think teachers would help initiate some interaction. To me, that social learning is so much a part of school, too, and I think kids need help sometime.
DS has had trouble socially. The PA has been a factor I think, as has his giftedness. Also, he's just very different from most little boys. He has such different interests--doesn't really like sports, does like dance, the theatre, music--you can see how this could put him at odds with the more rough and tumble boys. Even boys that were his friends and he related well (that he had play dates with) with didn't play with him at recess because DS didn't like tag or football. He absolutely will not play tag--not even for some social compromise (he gives a little, they give a little). I'm thrilled this year that his new PA friend--who plays baseball--has somehow managed to get DS to play kickball. He does it every day at recess and absolutely loves it. I don't mean to derail--but this is all just to say that I completely understand how incredibly heartbreaking it is to know your child is suffering at recess. It's horrible!
I wonder what she's reacting to at school. Are they cleaning the pf table properly? That eczema flareup is really disconcerting.
(((Hugs))) to you and your DD right now. I don't know whether you should move her to K, but (((hugs))).

Posted on: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 3:10am
Chicago's picture
Joined: 04/21/2001 - 09:00

In 2nd grade, dd and another PA girl sat alone at the table everyday. That was OK, but dd was sad as this other girl was nice enough, but not really a friend.
I learned that one of the reasons that no one sat with them was that the kids wanted to keep the PA kids safe and since they had no idea what was in their packed lunch (this school had no hot lunch program), they were afraid to sit at the table.
Now, this year in Middle School, the PA table is the place to sit. In fact dd said that yesterday, she was a bit late to lunch and the table was full, so the teacher needed to relocate a non PA student. It also helps that there is a Peanut free hot lunch that many of the kids get or even now that they are older they pack their own lunches or feel confident that they know what would not be safe.
I guess I am trying to give you some hope that things will change! This is a journey!
If you think your dd would like to get an email from a PA/TNA 13 year old who has been through this, please let me know - dd would be happy to send one! She babysits for a 2nd grader who is PA and Milk allergic too!
Edited to add - with her skin troubles, you may want to look into if other meetings are being held in the cafe where non-safe food is served. I have had a few instances where parent groups have overlooked the peanut free designation and put out unsafe snacks - like the rules don't apply to them! Maybe something like that is being done and not getting a proper cleaning afterwards?
[This message has been edited by Chicago (edited September 06, 2007).]

Posted on: Thu, 09/06/2007 - 3:27am
PinkPoodle's picture
Joined: 06/12/2007 - 09:00

Thanks for all of the replies. We are leaning toward removing her from public school and having her repeat kindergarten in a private school (peanut-free). There is an opening in the private kindergarten, but there would be 11 boys in her class and 3 girls. She will be the oldest if we decide to make this change. I'm still on the fence, as is my husband, but we're going to go check it out tomorrow.
I just wanted to quickly respond about her eczema flare-ups. I watch them clean the peanut-free table. They use a separate bucket and separate cloth. The lunch monitor seems very cautious about this and makes sure she does it herself (one of the volunteers offered and the monitor said no). She cleans the table before each lunch.
The cafeteria doesn't serve anything unsafe (I haven't checked all of the food as DD doesn't eat hot lunch--no blatant peanut products). There are many PB&Js sent in from home. The cafeteria reeks of peanut butter (to my highly sensitive nose). I don't know if that is the cause of her flare-ups or possibly something else like animal dander from other children's clothes (just one example). I have no idea and I need to talk to her allergist.
[This message has been edited by PinkPoodle (edited September 06, 2007).]


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