Teacher: "Is Organic Wheat Okay?"

Sorry I haven’t made a post for a couple of days, I have been in the middle of a big and unexpected blip. My great hope of transitioning Sam into kindergarten at the local public school has not worked out so well. Wednesday was his first day, and as we lined up to go into class and say goodbye to our little ones, Sam’s teacher asked me:

“I’m so glad to see you, I have a question.(Yea! She read my letter and spoke with the nurse!!) Is organic wheat okay?”
Taken aback, I said, ” No…it is still wheat.”
“But I thought they didn’t use gluten when it’s organic?”

WHAT???? I know I didn’t just hear her say that. Did she even read my very detailed letter that I gave her a week ago?? She thinks gluten is a pesticide! I have heard people mistaking gluten for glucose before but not a pesticide.

It was a movie moment, a classic anxiety attack. I slowly backed up against the wall of the building trying to hide the tears from Sam (the sunglasses weren’t cutting it and he was very specific that morning not to embarrass him by crying).

When I went to pick Sam up from school later in the day, I spoke briefly to his teacher and she asked me if shaving cream was gluten free. I told her that I would have to research the specific brand, but that it should be okay, as long as he wasn’t eating it and washed his hands after using it!

(GF mom idea: maybe supplying Sam with a box of cool colored vinyl gloves would be helpful for situations such as these, so he could just throw them away afterward, further reducing cross-contamination).

I asked her if she let him participate in the activity and she said no, since she didn’t know if it was safe. While I appreciate that very much, erring on the side of caution is always good if there is no other option, (like using the phone in her class to dial the cell phone number I gave her to ask me questions like these as they came up)…I was disappointed that she didn’t give me a quick call to ask but instead excluded him from the activity.

As we were walking to the car, I asked Sam how his day was and what he thought of eating lunch in the cafeteria, did he use his place mat, etc. Sam told me he used his place mat but that he didn’t go to the cafeteria with the other kids. I asked him where he ate and he said that the kids who pack their lunch have to eat in the classroom with the teacher’s assistant. Really? “Well, how many kids packed their lunch?” “There was one other boy who packed.”

Sam will always pack his lunch, it broke my heart that there will inevitably be days that he will be eating lunch alone, and isolated from the “normal” kids in the cafeteria. This is what incenses me, as long as Sam is gluten free, he is a normal boy. He is active, plays sports, he is smart, outgoing, friendly, compassionate. The school was already failing him, and we only went one day.

A little back-story and why I haven’t had time to update my blog for a while.

I have been spending endless HOURS trying to do my part, plus some (took rice flour to the teacher to make GF play dough for the entire class)…

I met with the school nurse on Tuesday (one day before school started since my repeated phone calls to her had yet to be returned since she was always out on “one-on-one’s” with other students) to discuss Sam’s situation, and to talk about getting a 504 plan, I had a letter from Sam’s pediatrician and everything, I was prepared!

The nurse told me that what this school prefers to do is an Individual Health Plan and that it has worked very well for them in the past. She told me that she recommended trying that first, then if I still wanted a 504, I could pursue it later. Not wanting to come off as pushy or unreasonable and in essence “mark Sam” as a trouble maker because of his “difficult” mom, I reluctantly agreed to try it their way. As I was leaving, the nurse told me she would put the plan together right away and speak with his teacher before school started the next day.

I now think that didn’t happen simply because of the organic wheat comment…

Anyway, before school even began, I printed out the form letters in this blog’s side bar, modified them for Sam, took letters to the nurse, teacher, guidance counselor and the principle.

Everywhere I turned I was met with resistance, especially with the receptionists in the front office. Not only were they not helpful, they were not even nice. Upon entering the school office to introduce myself and briefly speak with the principle, the following exchange happened… SERIOUSLY!

“Hi, my name is Heidi and my son Sam is going to be attending kindergarten here next week. He has has a very serious health condition that I need to discuss with the principle and I have some information for her.”
The receptionist told me, “You need an appointment.”
“Well, can I make an appointment with you?”
“No, you need to call to make an appointment.”
“Call who?”
“Me.”
“So, you are telling me that I can’t make an appointment with you now, I need to call?”
“Yes.”
“Okay, well, can I at least drop this letter off for the principle?”
“No, give it to your son’s teacher and she can give it to the principle.”
“Okay….well, I will run this letter back to the teacher so she can come up here and give it to the principle.”
“You can’t, the teacher is busy testing other students, you need to call and make an appointment.”
Getting really flustered and upset, I said, “Does the principle have an in-box?”
“Yes”
“Well, put this letter in it!”

I had even taken in some of Udi’s Lemon Struesel muffins to share. I did it to be nice (and to hopefully make an impact so the staff might actually remember us and our special needs…) I took my muffins back! I felt like Julia Roberts character Vivian in Pretty Woman, walking into the store on Rodeo Drive with shopping bags in hand, telling the snobby sales ladies who would not help her…”Big mistake. Big. Huge. I have to go shopping now.” Except I went to share a muffin with Sam 🙂

UGGGHHHH!!!

I went home with my first uneasy feeling. Knowing I have a tendency to sometimes blow things out of proportion, I decided to postpone judgment until the principle called to assure me that she got the letter, that the school would take this matter seriously, maybe invite me in for a little education for the adults/teachers whose care he would be in…nothing.

So, the long and short of it is that I have been frantically searching for a new School for Sam since Wednesday. We have decided to send him to a small, private school. When we went in for our interview yesterday and it was night and day. The calm that overcame me as I walked onto the campus, where I was greeted by the Director of Admissions, who gave me a big hug (Mike had called her the day before to ask questions and tell our story).

This school has not only had celiac students before, but they placed Sam with a teacher who’s mom has celiac disease. She knows all about the diet! As tears of joy and relief began streaming down my face, she just looked at me with that knowing look, that only someone affected by this disease can possibly understand.

Now Sam gets a do-over for his first day of kindergarten…and mom wont be crying and embarrassing her very “big” 5 3/4 year old boy (yes, he does emphasize the 3/4)!

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One Response

  1. As a health care professional working in the public schools (occupational therapist) who also has celiac disease, I sympathize completely with this mess of a day you had! Unfortunately I can't say I am one bit surprised. I'm glad you found the private school for your son. He should not have been treated like he was on his first day in kindergarten in the public school. Life is hard enough when you're a 5 year old, you shouldn't be singled out so young for eating weird things… or made to eat in another part of the school. I hope the new school works out well!

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