Examining Educational Options [part 1]

My son Jacob is 3 1/2. He will be turning 4 in early September. I have been having some anxiety since LAST August about the idea of him starting Pre-K. I have had “Research schools for Jacob” on my to-do list since then! My anxiety issues are compounded by his health concerns. Jacob is a cancer-kiddo, and chemo has a lot of post treatment side effects that can occur, plus the risk of a cancer-relapse. He also has EoE [Eosinophilic Esophagitis], and a feeding tube, along with an extensive allergen list to basically ALL food. He has had anaphylaxis from baked egg, and is highly allergic to many other ‘common’ foods. I decided I need to start looking into what our options would be regarding his education, and I guess we never know, in the future we could find ourselves having to Search online for graduate school program options. I have tried searching the web to look for education options and plans for children with similar issues, but found very little out there. So what are the options? I know many -if not MOST- EoE families chose to do home-schooling. There is private or public school, or a day-care/Pre-K type of program either run from someone’s home or business, or perhaps having a teacher/tutor come into our house. But what were the pros and cons of each of these? What other kind of options may there be that I have not considered?

I have started tackling the information gathering by first meeting with our principal from the public pre-K school. At this initial meeting I wanted a chance to meet, share my concerns, and let him meet Jacob too. Now, Jacob would not be eating at school- since he has a feeding tube and will only be ‘at school’ for 3 hours. The Pre-K class is Monday-Friday, either 9 AM-12 PM or 12 PM -3 PM depending on which program he gets into. Our school program is federally funded, which means that they must provide a meal, so both morning and afternoon classes will have a meal- [breakfast or lunch]. Additionally, due to space constraints-and because the Pre-K program is run from a school with 3rd and 4th graders, these meals are being served IN the classroom! In each classroom there are 15 4-year-olds eating all the foods Jacob is allergic too, TWICE a day! [Ok, breathe!] Another concern that would need to be addressed is that a large part of the curriculum being used for this class is FOOD based projects! ie: Making gingerbread houses and decorating with candy, build an igloo out of marshmallows making ice cream in the classroom, etc.

The principal is genuine and caring, I know he appreciated my concerns and that I was coming to him now to start looking at what kind of plans or accommodations we need to come up with. One option he is going to look into for us is contacting Child Developmental Services to find out if they can provide an aide to be with Jacob every day – to look out solely for him. If he qualifies for such an aide, what training do they have? What if they are out sick? Could this potentially make Jacob more of target to get bullied later? Addressing the meals being served in the classroom is another more tricky issue, but now that it’s on the radar, I think the principal will be able to examine if there are any better options. If there are none, then what will need to be put in place to contain and minimize the risks? Let’s face it- 4-year- olds are not always the neatest eaters. The chances are significant for spills, crumbs, and cross-contamination! The food in the curriculum will actually be easier to address if they simply get rid of it! As a food allergy parent it is scary to me to think of so many 4-year-olds who could potentially have undiagnosed food allergies, getting so much food exposure in school! It’s no wonder 1 in 5 kids with food allergies have reactions at school! Of course Jacob will need to have a 504 plan before entering school as well. I realize that when he enters Kindergarten I will need to figure out how to get his tube-feedings done during the day, while ensuring there is no exclusion.

I have a few reasons why I want him to be able to attend the public Pre-K program. They are :

  • Jacob WANTS to go to school!
  • To learn the socialization skills that school can provide.
  • To make friends who will, as they go through school, become allies in keeping him safe.
  • I do not feel confident in my ability to teach him the newer techniques of the standard based learning now being implemented.
  • He is entitled to receive an education.
  • He can have a 504 plan to address needs.
  • If he – and his feeding tube – are introduced while his friends are younger, it is my hope that there will be less negative reactions and more positive acceptance among his peers.
  • We will not have to pay for it out of pocket- [any private or day-care pre-K will be at our expense].

My cons list include:

  • My Fear: Can he really be safe in a public school environment?
  • Jacob will be a very young 4 year-old; Do I just wait another year before sending him to school?

I will be examining all of our options over the next few months, and with hope I will also conclude with a reference page about school options with pros and cons for each. What are your thoughts? Are there other things I have not considered with the public school option?


Ironically shortly after posting this I came across these articles!~

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8 Responses to Examining Educational Options [part 1]

  1. Maya Trimner February 14, 2013 at 11:57 pm #

    With the goal being for Jacob to live as normal a life as possible under the circumstances, I feel like a public school setting with his own aide would be ideal, but as you say, developing social relationships and learning to interact with others might be much more difficult since many might be afraid or not understand his conditions since they are so young.

    He needs the social aspect of public school, but you are right, in my opinion it is a huge risk that most aides and schools are not trained for.

    I wasn’t home-schooled but I went home with reactions quite a bit, either from the environment and my naturally high iGe levels or from a reaction from the day prior…I can’t imagine having a food reaction because until middle school, my mom and family strictly said to NEVER take food from strangers–and I didn’t. The risk of contamination on tables is very high and just recently, I had a conversation with a young girl on my Twitter feed who went into anaphylaxis because of touching a table that was contaminated with either peanut or soy traces at her school.

    For this reason, I would say don’t risk it. His safety in these younger years cannot be 100% controlled, especially when the other children are so young and don’t yet understand. Most adults have no clue either when it comes to derivatives and the effects of severe food allergies.

    This is a tough one…

    • Multiple Food Allergy Help February 15, 2013 at 1:48 am #

      Isn’t it?! I have really been wrestling with the options for awhile. I agree that if he has an aide they would need to be properly trained and educated. I think entering school younger is easier only because younger children tend to be more accepting, and to LOOK at Jacob you would not really notice anything different about him. I think for most purposes, public school will be the best option- better then a preschool/daycare in someones house- as there is no control or legal responsibility to take safety measures towards keeping him safe [such as a 504 plan provides]. So I will wait to hear back from the principal and see what he has come up with, and continue looking into different options as well. No easy answer on this one! -Jenny

  2. Tamara February 15, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    So I do not know the answer for you. I don’t know it for me.

    But I wish you all wisdom and do share what you decide and how you got there! We won’t have the same answer, but we’ll learn!

  3. Tamara February 15, 2013 at 4:40 am #

    I’m facing this right now. I can’t even say how scary it is! (could this be any harder to write with the type set so light?!??!)

    Anyway, my daughter needs to be assessed so she can go to school. But I worry because one thing she reacts to is cinnamon in the air. WHat if Jr. eats a cinnamon roll and it’s still warm and smelly when he arrives at school and has “only one more bite” to eat? Then my kid can’t breathe!

    Gee thanks.

    And I do not care how many times you tell someone “my child is allergic to dyes”: they do not understand the terror that is my child with just licking her hands afterwards.

    Or with “just one” food item she is allergic to.

    People amaze me with their lack of understanding. And their confidence in their beliefs. That is what scares me the most. People feel so confident my child will not be harmed by something so simple as watermelon. But guess again. It’s on her list of allergens for a reason.

    I also know it has taken a year of practice to know the labels and what everything means on a label and to watch for “this was made in a factory that also makes…..” My learning curve was bad enough. But someone else has to have the same learning. But now the stakes are higher because her reactions have gotten so much worse. And each one could be “the one.” The one from which she does not recover.

    On someone else’s watch. How will I not kill that person? How will I survive without my beautiful baby?

    But how will she live in this world and negotiate her way in a world where Mommy ALWAYS is there shielding her? Is that even living?

    Therin lies the struggle.

  4. Laurie February 15, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

    I do not know how many kinder classes your school has, but I found that the number of prek kids vs the amount of K kids in our school is huge. my daughter only has a few of her original classmates due to many kids not starting school until kinder. We homeschooled and did public prek, and our school is following in your school’s footsteps with customized learning and I find it much easier to work with at home! I also do find kids to be clear that the care for and try to keep their friends safe! it is amazing at this age! I wish I had words of wisdom and magic to keep our little ones safe. I believe you are doing your child no harm in starting school in K vs Prek. It gives the school a year to put policy and procedure in place to keep him safe too! Food as projects needs to go!!!!!!!

  5. Gratefulfoodie March 21, 2013 at 5:12 am #

    All I know is that you are one smart Mama and I know you’ll look at every angle and then find the right option. Those kids are lucky!

    Although, you are right about those messy 4 year olds! My kids did Montessori when they were little and that was the most civilized lunch periods I had ever seen in my life!

  6. Kristin Beltaos May 24, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    Girl…you can do it! He can go! Why? Because you’re a strong and informative mama who will educate the school and empower your son! Good luck!


  1. May 2013 Living With Food Allergies Blog Carnival | Oh Mah Deehness! - May 23, 2013

    […] Sprague at Multiple Food Allergy Help has two posts for this month’s carnival, Examining Educational Options [part 1] and The Food Allergy Bloggers Conference.  Her little boy, Jacob, has had cancer, deals with […]

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