Rethinking the peanut-free table at school...

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 5:21am
booandbrimom's picture
Joined: 08/23/2000 - 09:00

Would love some feedback from others who have been there...

My son (first grader) is allergic to peanuts plus several other foods including milk and soy. His allergist is very conservative and suggested that he eat at a peanut-free table for lunch.

When we said o.k., we thought there would be other children in the school at this table. As it turns out, all the other children with allergies (and we know there's one with anaphylaxis to peanuts) eat at the regular tables. Our son is eating alone every day because his friends like having lots of kids together at lunch, and/or bring peanut butter.

The poor little guy is miserable, and as I've wondered before, this peanut-free table seems like overkill. This is the same kid who ate in a restaurant just this summer where peanut shells were strewn everywhere. (For the record, we had finished the party before I realized this - they were not in the actual party room.) He also played with peanut shells at his cousin's house in the past before we started taking his allergy more seriously. He's never shown a contact allergy to anything he's allergic to.

Would you consider letting a child with a high threshold eat with the other kids? Why or why not?

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 6:01am
GPMac's picture
Joined: 10/02/2001 - 09:00

I have lots of time to think about this b/c my child is only 2. I did see something you might be interested in.
I guess I worry about a child being look at as a victim. I know from my own experiences all too well how hard it is to fit in at school. It can be heart breaking. A bully will use any excuse.
Good luck with your choice.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 8:02am
Helen's picture
Joined: 05/05/2000 - 09:00

We, too, are rethinking the peanut/nut free table, but for slightly different reasons.
My suggestion for you is to call the parents of your child's friends, explain the situation, and suggest they bring safe lunches. This worked great in our case for the first few years.
The social issues continue, however, in that my child now feels it's overkill - next year he'll be in middle school and on his own, and he'd like to show more responsibility now and not sit at a special table. I'm waiting for the school year to be more settled before broaching this.
Another point - a few times I visited at lunch to see how peanut free the table really was. The kids meant well but some had no idea what was in their lunch and the educational assistants were too busy to check. I felt OK since my kid would never share lunches and knows enough not to sit right next to someone eating obvious peanut/nut stuff, but it's not a perfect solution.
Good luck! I think the social issues are as hard as the medical ones and it's really important for us parents to remember that, as you are.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 9:27am
Beth's picture
Joined: 03/06/1999 - 09:00

My daughter is 14 now, and has always eaten with everyone else at school. When she was in the lower grades, since there wasn't all this info that is out there now, we never knew that a child could have a problem just by being around peanuts. My daughter's best friend frequently ate PB&J, right next to her. Fortunately there was never a problem. To this day, she has never had to be separated in school, thank goodness. I feel for those of you who are dealing with this now. In our case, ignorance helped us along in the early years. I wonder how much more scary it is for you with the little ones right now. Knowledge is good, of course, but sometimes the more we know, the more scared we get.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 9:37am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

My son will be in 1st grade next year and he also has a "high threshold" to touching peanuts/peanut products. I am going to go with my gut feeling on this one, and let him sit at the regular table next year. I think it would crush him to sit alone, and I am afraid the other kids would label him a "freak" if he was separated. He is a very conciencious little boy, and I trust his judgement. Also, I am considering becoming a volunteer luchroom monitor so I can observe what is going on and pull him out of any threatening situations.
I guess we each need to evaluate our own comfort level with the situation and decide what is the overall best interest of our children.
Hope this is helpful. Good luck with your decision.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 11:13am
CarolynM's picture
Joined: 03/27/2001 - 09:00

Please see the threads on this in the schools board. There are many scenarios described. My daughter sits with the kids who buy their lunches (main selections are peanut free) so she is technically at a peanut free table without siting alone. We don't have to worry about what other kids are bringing from home. She is in second grade and this has worked out really well. Good luck.

Posted on: Fri, 10/05/2001 - 12:58pm
teacher's picture
Joined: 11/02/2000 - 09:00

This isn't really a reply to your question, but as I read through the thread, this came to mind.
My older child is not PA, but last year in her kindergarten class she had a classmate that was. When the whole class was eating a snack that had a peanut warning on it, the PA child was "allowed" to sit at the teacher's desk to eat his own snack at that time.
The teacher, bless her heart, made the whole scenario out to be a very special privilege for Tom, rather than it being an opportunity to ostracize him. (OMG, did I spell that right? LOL!) Tom's classmates were told that if they wanted to join Tom in the PRIVILEGE of sitting at the TEACHER'S desk [img][/img] then they could choose to do so if they chose to forego THEIR snack. Believe me, the kids were falling over themselves to get to sit with Tom!
I guess it's all about attitude and point of view! (And ... of course ... good teachers! [img][/img])

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2001 - 2:43am
Linda-Jo's picture
Joined: 07/30/1999 - 09:00

My daughter is also in first grade. We have a peanut-free table at lunch and the kids who sit there (there are 5 in our school) can take as many classmates/friends to that table with them as long as they have nothing containing pnut/nuts for lunch. It is working out quite well. I am the lunch lady there and at each lunch, the table is full. Last year in my daughter's kindergarten class, the whole class wanted to sit there!
I think the child with the allergy shouldn't be isolated from every one else, rather the kids with pb/nuts should be isolated. Talk with his teacher and see if you can develop some system whereas there's two lines: one for "your son's" table and a line for the other table. Those who have no pb/nuts in their lunches could sit at that table with him. Also, the first day of school for my daughter a letter went home to every parent asking them not to send in any pnut products. In her classroom, if a child does come in with pnut/nut products for snack, they have to sit at a separate table, rather than my daughter going to a separate table, as the teacher said it is easier to clean up 1 table rather than 5.
I hope these ideas help. I feel that no child should have to eat alone just because of this allergy and the school staff should help in any way that they can to ensure his happiness as well as everyone else's.

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2001 - 11:51am
joeybeth's picture
Joined: 09/01/2006 - 09:00

My kindergarten age PA daughter is sitting all alone at the end of a huge long table. There is no one sitting across from her or beside her for about 6 seats away from her. On one hand I am relieved that she is "safe" but on the other hand it makes me very sad to see all the other kids socializing and her just eating quietly. She is a happy kid and doesn't seem upset by the situation but I am. I don't want to overreact to her allergy by separating her from social situations and fun times like snack time and parties at school. I think I will talk to her teacher about the possibility of her sitting only with those that purchase a tray at school. At the present time the school lunches are almost peanut free (they have one peanut butter cookie they serve about once every two or three months). If I could see to it that that item was removed from the menu I would feel comfortable with her sitting with the rest of the kids who buy their lunch. Incidentally, she buys school lunch every day except on the day the pb cookie is served. I would estimate (from observing when I visit during lunch) that 75-90% of the kids that bring a lunchbox are eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And, of course, we all know how messy little ones are. Peanut butter is all over the place at lunch time (fingers, table tops, lips, etc.) Do other moms of PA school age kids allow their kids to eat school lunch or does everyone else here pack a lunch from home? I am relieved to see that so many other moms are trying to balance the peanut allergy with proper socialization and "fitting in" at school. Sometimes when I start thinking about loosening up and letting my kindergartner enjoy snacktime and lunchtime with less fear I feel like I am not being as responsible as I should be. I'm glad to see it's not just me that struggles with this issue. Joey

Posted on: Sat, 10/06/2001 - 2:52pm
California Mom's picture
Joined: 07/14/2000 - 09:00

Wow, I feel like this is the first thread I've seen for a long time where parents are admitting to considering their kids' social and emotional needs along with their physical safety needs. I am glad to see it. My first grade daughter is currently sitting at a peanut free table, and I truly do not know how many others are sitting with her. She doesn't seem to want to discuss it with me; when I try to ask her she has told me that she sits alone, but then in the next few minutes has said that everyone except one boy sat at her table; the one boy sat alone with his pb & j. My daughter is very verbal and understands everything going on around her, so it was strange that she told me two opposite stories. The one time I asked the lunch supervisor if Leah was sitting by herself, she said "oh no, not at all!". So I haven't wanted to ask her again. However, I think this is a very important issue and I will pursue it again this week. Maybe I will stop by and take a peek, myself.
I should add that my dh and I were initially against the idea of a peanut free table. We were concerned that she would feel isolated and different. Well, after I saw what went on at lunch time: how close the kids sit to each other and how little "personal" space they each have; the prevalence of kids bringing pb from home - including one boy with a little tub of pb to dip stuff into!!!; and the minimal amount of direct supervision the lunch duty person can realistically provide; we changed our tune and felt that a peanut free table was really the only way we could feel safe. The district nurse was behind us all the way (in fact she was actually leading us!). She came in and gave a nice presentation to Leah's class about the new table, and made it sound really great that if you didn't have peanuts in your lunch you "get to sit at the special" peanut free table.
Joeybeth - Leah does buy lunch about 1/2 the time. Our lunch program is peanut and nut free, which is a huge relief. Also, Beth - I totally agree that sometimes ignorance is bliss. You should feel good knowing that you obviously did the right things for your daughter, because she has been reaction free. If you had known the kind of info. we all know now, you probably would have had a much tighter comfort zone, and she still wouldn't have had a reaction. You and she are lucky that she has been able to be more of a "normal" kid. I feel bad for my own daughter: she has never had a contact reaction, and yet I feel like I need to take so many precautions. Maybe I will loosen up over time. Good luck to us all. Miriam
[This message has been edited by California Mom (edited October 07, 2001).]

Posted on: Sun, 10/07/2001 - 1:41am
pamom's picture
Joined: 02/20/2001 - 09:00

I know it sounds terrible, but it is comforting knowing other parents are out there having to deal with the social ramifications of this allergy. My daughter is in second grade and this year and last year she sits at a peanut free table, and sometimes kids assigned to her table, that bring peanut butter move to another table and she can be at a table with one person or alone. I told the teacher, please fill her table with kids who I normally do not see as huge peanut lovers and they may go to another table if they do bring peanut butter that day. The trick is to stop by every week or two to bring a special surprise or have a lunch date with your child. That way you know exactly what is going on in the lunchroom. I know it is my responsibility to make sure she is safe mentally and physically. The schools do not have the investment in your child the way you do. Stay on top of it.
Keep your chins up everyone. It is becoming more prevalent everyday. Do not let the schools neglect your children's emotional needs. The principal at the beginning of first grade wanted to put my daughter in a room by herself!! No way!!!
It is a hard balance to be nice and firm with the schools, but be your child's advocate, no one else will be. Good luck!!

Posted on: Tue, 10/09/2001 - 4:00am
Adrienne_J's picture
Joined: 10/09/2001 - 09:00

hi there,
I think P/pnut free tables are sometimes necessary, but the emotional/social aspect on the child could be bad. I never had that option in grade school (early-mid 80's), but I never had a reaction mother taught me to wash hands before I eat, and spread a napkin out on the area I was to eat and put my food on it (like many kids do anyway), and then wash after I eat. This issue could be taken as far as classroom desks after lunch - what if someone who is a messy eater didn't wash up and had PBJ for lunch? It's always good to have Benadryl handy for contact hives....
also - someone had said that "main selections" were "safe"...all of my reactions (about 4 or 5) in school happened at lunch...they aren't always careful to see what was shipped in - one such reaction occurred because the put ground peanuts in dinner rolls to fulfill a nutrition requirement!! I'm sure schools are more careful now, but beware, some aren't...and some schools get government subsidized cooking oils, which can be soybean/peanut oil mixes...

Posted on: Fri, 10/12/2001 - 8:27am
btbear1's picture
Joined: 08/16/2001 - 09:00

Hi everyone!
This is a tricky area and I sympathize with you, but as some of you may note I posted once before about traumatizing our kids. I grew up in 70's and peanuts were a staple food at lunchtime. I never sat anywhere by myself and trust me back then you probably would have been punished just for asking. I do have contact and inhalation reactions so I am very surprised that I lived through that. I didn't have a lot of friends to begin with and I would have died before I would have been singled out for my allergy. As a teacher I still encounter that problem daily since pb is served just about everyday as a dip. I have found ways of coping and only remember a few times of asking someone to be please move away from me because I counldn't breathe and two of those times were at family functions one which involved my own brother in law at my mother's house. You will find as your child goes through school that the tolerance at lunch seems to build for some strange reason and unless they actually touch or eat the peanut product they will be alright. I know I never hesitated to say you know you can't touch me you have peanut on you, kids are smart that way. As a Phys Ed teacher my biggest concern is touching or being touched by a little one who didn't wash their hands or face good enough after eating lunch or breakfast. The majority of the students know I am allergic since we tend to open those hard to open food packages and I always have to pass the ones with peanut products on to another teacher. Teach your child to be honest and open but not mean about the PA and the other students will respond the same way. Once a child has a reaction they never forget what it feels like and once someone withnesses one they never want to see another one. Put faith in your children after all you are the ones that taught them so well.

Posted on: Sat, 10/13/2001 - 2:28am
SLICE's picture
Joined: 07/20/2000 - 09:00

There are 3 PA 1st-graders at my son's school. They all have 504 status, which means they MUST be mainstreamed - the school cannot make them eat in their classroom or some other location. However, for their safety, they have a nut-free table, and their friends with nut-free lunches can join them. Many do, and it's a popular table. As part of our 504 plan, we asked the district for an in-service training for the entire faculty - my allergist showed "It Only Takes One Bite" and spoke to them 2 days before school started. They all got on board in a wonderful way.
The 3rd day of school, our teacher showed the "Alexander" video to all 1st grade classes and held a discussion about allergies. All the parents in the class have received a letter from the principal asking them not to send any peanut and nut products to school. The school in general has been requested in the newsletter to try not to send peanut and nut products. This is not "enforced", but is voluntary.
Most people have been willing to try to be careful for our children's sakes. The district hired a teacher's assistant (504 provides extra money) who helps supervise all the kids in the class washing hands when they get to school and after lunch. She also carries the epi-pens and benadryl in a fanny pack and goes with them to all their specials (art, gym, etc) During our meeting, she told me that the most important thing said was when I said "I think everyone should know that I don't know of a case where someone has died if the epi-pen was used immediately and 911 called right away." I think that language transmitted the sense of life-and-death severity needing immediate trained response that enabled her to go the distance for us.
The food service provider has been instructed to not send anything containing peanuts, peanut butter or tree nuts for the hot lunch or breakfast service to our school.
We three moms worked for almost a year on this issue with the school principal, nurse and district special needs people. Anyone who would like more specific information about 504's can search for fantastic thread on this site or email me about my experience.
The social aspect of lunchroom socialization is important to me and my son eats there everyday even though we are only a couple houses away from the school. I want to be supportive of the other 2 PA kids. Once our faculty was educated, they all have been supportive and are teaching the kids in their classes to be supportive as well. By not demanding a peanut-free school, we are not creating an adversarial position. I think each year will bring less peanuts to the school (2 kindergartens are PA here, so that class will be "educated") Now to check those vending machines in teacher's lounge . . .

Posted on: Sat, 10/13/2001 - 12:53pm
quilterkel's picture
Joined: 09/23/2001 - 09:00

I wanted to let you know that we tried something new this year at school. We made little laminated cards for the Mom's to stick in the OTHER kids lunches as an easy way to tell the teacher they could sit with our son. They were about the size of a business card and it says "No Nuts Today". The children can then hand this card to the teacher to let her know he/she could sit with our son. This is a Kindergarten class and we are the first PA they have had. \
Hope this helps.

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