Hot Topic Blog - Feeding, Eating, & Drinking
PARTY DAY: CHILDHOOD FOOD ALLERGIES, AN SLP MOM'S EXPERIENCEBy Kristie Gatto, Speech-Language Pathologist in the Houston, Texas area
Party days should be fun for everyone involved. They are the time for laughing, sharing, loving, and celebrating momentous occasions. As a mom of a child with food allergies, parties are threatening. What is being served? Is the food safe? Is there anything masked in the food that isn’t typically in that particular recipe? You do not want to start questioning the details of each party; however, you must in order to keep your child safe.
All activities where food is involved bring a certain level of stress and anxiety to a parent of a child with food allergies. Every event has some type of food, and it is almost impossible to control without appearing like that overbearing, hyper-anxious, helicopter parent who has to be in control. Very few parents and even professionals completely understand what the food allergy parent needs to do to guarantee that his/her child is going to be safe AND have a good time.
My youngest son was identified with significant food allergies at the age of two. We have eliminated eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, and fish since his diagnosis. For many years, I simply brought all of my son’s food separately to avoid the concern. It was made at home, and I knew there wasn’t the chance of cross-contamination. Next, we entered the time where my son didn’t want to be different. He would question, “Why can’t I eat the cupcakes everyone else is eating?” Being the “good” mom, I volunteered to bring the cupcakes to every event. I should also state that I have three boys, all in sports, and run a private practice. I would be up at midnight baking cupcakes for events and icing them at 2:00 a.m. This type of “supermom” behavior was not very conducive for a solid night’s rest.
All of this led up to today. In my child’s quest to “be like everyone else,” I am attempting to back off a little and let him. He is an extravert and a leader, and the food allergy confinements have become a struggle to manage without inhibiting his growth. Today was the first birthday party he attended that I didn’t say a word. I didn’t tell the mom he has allergies. I was told to drop him off and pick him up a few hours later. So, I did. I dropped him off and away I went. I can do this. He looked at me, smiled, and simply said, “I’m fine.” My heart melted, so I left without saying a word to the hosting parent. I had to trust my child’s instinct.
An hour later, the reality struck with the doubt, the questioning, and the thoughts of the “what-if” moments starting to occur. I didn’t know if someone had Benadryl, and I didn’t leave a dose with him. I felt the devil sitting on one shoulder and the angel on the other, both adding to my anxiety. Did I do the right thing? He’s very independent, but he is still a child. He knows our phone number in the event he begins to have a reaction. He is very aware of the “itches” in his throat and what has to be done. I can be there in a matter of a few minutes. Sigh. I simply looked at my husband, and he said, “go check on him.” I had to check. I walked into the party room, and the children were all eating pizza. The mom looked at me with a puzzled look, and I told her that I realized I didn’t say anything about his allergies. She smiled and told me my son had told her that he has allergies. She asked him about his allergies. He quickly informed her that he was to only take one bite to try a food before he completely ate it, and then the host mom informed me that she was a physician. Relief washed over me, not that she was a physician, but because he had handled the situation. My little boy was very proud and showed me that he is beginning to understand and manage his allergy world.
About the Author
Kristie Gatto, MA, CCC-SLP, COM lives in the Houston area with her husband and three boys. She is the owner of The Speech and Language Connection, a private practice with offices in Houston and Katy, Texas. Clinically, Kristie supervises and provides intervention for patients with disorders associated with swallowing, orofacial myology, craniofacial abnormalities, apraxia, and articulation. Kristie is also the author of the book Understanding the Orofacial Complex: Muscle Manual.