Educating About Food Allergy: Teaching The Tough To Reach

You no doubt have your own way of teaching people about your child’s food allergy, a way that suits your temperament, and style of communication.

So, these six suggestions for sharing information are offered as possible solutions should your sincere words fall on deaf ears, or inspire defensiveness instead of cooperation:

  1. If you do not feel confident educating others about food allergies, let concern for your child inspire you to speak with assurance. People are more attentive to words spoken with conviction, and when you see that people are responding to your certainty, genuine self-confidence will bloom and grow.
  2. Out of apprehension you may stress the life-threatening seriousness of food allergies when talking with others, but people - especially your child’s caretakers - need an equal amount (or more) of reassurance that food allergies can be well managed—and specifics on how to do that.
  3. Even with growing food allergy awareness, the issue is still new to many. People may need to hear about it several times before the information takes up residence in their memory, or the seriousness of food allergy sinks in. This means you must teach with patience - even when it’s in short supply - since impatience causes humans to tune out, withdraw, or wax defensive.
  4. Your child’s needs must 1) be understood, and 2) seem doable. Use easy to understand language, and include just enough detail to ensure your child’s safety. Practice your delivery with a trusted friend to get feedback on the clarity of your teaching.
  5. No matter what teachers say or how, they can have trouble reaching certain individuals and need to try a variety of approaches. Some people respond better to written or audio materials, than to a live speaker. Others may listen more readily to a respected expert such as a doctor, or allergist. While one person may be moved by story and metaphor, another only warms up to data verified by research. It’s also possible someone will hear something from another educator that they will never accept from you; it happens.
  6. If people frequently comment that you are overreacting to food allergies, or if they express discomfort about caring for your child, take an honest look at your tone of voice and word choice. Emotional intensity and scare tactics can slip into your speech because you are passionate about your child’s safety, but this may cause listeners to doubt your words, or doubt their ability to heed them.

Finally, remember that, “Some people will never learn anything, for this reason, because they understand everything too soon.” ~ Alexander Pope

Photo credit: Alan Levine

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