If your child has to take medication during the day, and he’s enrolled in public school, the arrangements can be a pain in the butt. Zero tolerance policies mean a child isn’t allowed to take a little baggie of medications the way I did when I was a child and contracted mono. I went to a public school, and when I was able to return to school after missing several weeks, I was on the tail-end of the prescribed medication run. I had something chewable that was the size of a bottle cap which my mom had nicknamed “the horse pills” and something liquid that my mother had cleverly put in old baby food jars. I just took those with me to school and took them at lunch. No one questioned it. I didn’t land in the principal’s office for encouraging others to “take drugs”. As I recall, the liquid stuff tasted terrible and the horse pills were even worse. If anything, I was a walking “don’t do drugs” billboard. Now, your child’s medicine is all kept by the office (or the nurse if they have one). Parents must provide it in an actual bottle and must have a doctor’s note for each medication. Even a child’s inhaler may have to be kept in the office depending on the school. ADHD medication is the worst though. This is actually a controlled substance. An ADHD kid is highly likely to forget his own meds anyway, and getting the extra bottle to provide to the school is something like pulling teeth. It will definitely require a minimum of two forms of ID and having the same discussion with four different pharmacists. I went through that this year for Pumpkin’s Learning Center Day and all I wanted was an empty bottle with the correct prescription on it. You’d have thought I asked for a chunk of the moon.
Medication management has nothing on allergies. There have been a lot of jokes about schools outlawing peanut butter — some schools have gone to that extreme. If your child has never struggled with a severe allergy, that probably seems ridiculous. Consider for a moment the folks who have such strong allergies that the smallest trace of the allergy food can set them off. These people are the reason that food labels have to list if the food is processed in a facility that also processes peanuts or tree nuts, wheat, soy or dairy. Without an epi-pen, these kids could die from frosting that happened to have the most minuscule amount of the food they are allergic to. For more about the realities of this level of allergy, check out this. My children don’t have allergies that severe. I’m lucky for that. Still, my children have wheat allergies, and in Pumpkin’s case, Celiac Disease plus a terrible allergy to food dyes.
If you have a gifted kid, chances are your child has a food sensitivity at least. To my knowledge, no one has fully explored this yet. It is common knowledge though. It even gets made fun of on television. Take one of my favorite shows (now in Syndication, but out of production) “The Gilmore Girls”. The scene is this: Luke’s very gifted daughter is on a school trip with her gifted class to compete in a Mathalon. Luke has attended as a parent chaperon, and though he’s not in his own diner, he seems to have been delegated to get the kids’ food and pass it out. There he is, calling it out by allergy, “Dairy free, nut free, low sodium…” I’ve seen that episode with friends who chuckled. I couldn’t laugh at that one, both because it is true and because I know the stigma that an allergy means for a child. It is hard to not be able to eat what everyone else is eating. Imagine the struggles of someone at an age to really feel peer pressure, and while the rest of the baseball team gets to celebrate their season with a pizza party, the child in question cannot eat pizza or bread sticks or cake. The only time I’ve ever been grateful for my son’s aspergers was during last year’s post season celebrating. They picked a place for their party that offered absolutely nothing for my son, thankfully his aspergers is bad enough that he didn’t really notice.
As if the search for gluten free wasn’t difficult enough, my son cannot eat most FD&C dyes. Each of the most common ones do something nasty to his behavior, but the worst is the FD&C Red #40. This one makes him suicidal. Imagine having an seven-year-old trying to think of ways to kill himself. It happened. As he is gifted, he is unfortunately really good at coming up with ideas that are frighteningly effective. An accidental dose of red #40 means I cannot leave him unguarded for a second. Doctors are aware of the difficulties these dyes present, in some cases medications make use of what these dyes do to the brain. For Pumpkin, an out-of-balance body spells disaster and basically, that’s what the dyes do. So I have to be vigilant. I have to read labels constantly, and watch for signs if we’ve eaten out, because sometimes dyes turn up in the oddest places. I would never have thought, for example, that they would need to dye a berry smoothie. Berries provide brilliant colors on their own. Turns out that the Costco berry smoothie has the dreaded red #40. What I thought was a harmless treat resulted in my little boy trying to hang himself in the backyard.
How does all this relate to public school versus homeschool? That’s simple, really. Public school rewards kids with candy often. In a class of 35 kids, birthdays are pretty frequent and many are celebrated with cupcakes and koolade. Other children don’t fully understand about allergies. Friends can be urged to eat things that may not be safe for them, and it isn’t that the kids mean harm; after all, haven’t we been taught that polite rules of society mean you share?
Then there are the places you don’t even suspect troubles to arrise. Pumpkin got an accidental dose of dye from non-toxic, washable markers. His church group drew with markers and one of them had the funny notion that they should lick their hands. Next thing you know, Pumpkin’s acting crazy and I’m trying to narrow down the cause. He got the full rainbow in that way and it was awful. Same for Ducky, who got a wheat poisoning from playing with play-doh, which is wheat based. It’s easier for me to watch him when I’ve only got two. It was too hard for the church youth child care leader to make sure he didn’t put any in his mouth when she was trying to watch six children. For Ducky, this means vomiting. I’m glad it doesn’t mean epi-pen. If he were that severe it would be awful. And imagine if we were talking about a classroom of 35 children. I cannot expect a teacher to keep track of that many kids playing with play-doh.
I can better control things at home. I can choose to use salt-clay rather than play-doh. I can remind Pumpkin to wash his hands and not touch his mouth. I can make sure all treats are safe. Cookies and lollypops wouldn’t be in my house if they were unsafe for the boys. And I don’t need paperwork to give my son his medications. I only need to remember. So much easier. So much less risky for them. So much less stressful for me. And I know I’m not the only one.