La La How The Life Goes On

Nutty as a Fruitcake

Posted on: March 25, 2011

A school in (where else?) Florida has erupted over the issue of peanut allergies.  GreatSchools just wrote a good piece on it:

The issue at hand is a young girl who is so allergic to peanuts that she can die from sniffing them.  The other children in the school therefore must have their mouths rinsed and hands washed three times a day. The school has also brought in a peanut-sniffing dog.

Hold me back, folks. Hold me back.  Before I rant, let me say that this little girl’s life must be tremendously difficult and inordinately limited as a result of her condition.  You know I”m sincere when I say I understand what a terrible thing that must be, especially for a child.  That said, this is an outrage beyond measure.  I would NOT allow school officials to be rinsing my daughter’s mouth three times a day.  What the hell business is that of the school?!  Why are they touching my kid?  And why are they taking educational/learning time and using it to clorox desks and have a dog sniff classrooms?

As unkind as this sounds, it seems to me that this little girl has a serious disability that precludes her participation in a standard classroom.  Imagine if during my transplant I felt entitled to continue working.  I therefore could have sued my company if they did not make all my coworkers wear N-99 masks, latex gloves, and submit to fever checks daily.  Because, you know, I am entitled to a  life like yours regardless of my disability.  I know the analogy is not perfect, because I am an adult and my job is not a right like public education. But do you see the lunacy of such an approach to societal interactions?  What if, before Baby Sister’s surgery, I demanded that her preschool allow her to attend as normal but they had to make sure she caught no viruses or bacterial infections before her surgery? I’m pretty sure I could have made a case.  But that makes no sense. The solution was to keep her home for two weeks FOR HER SAFETY.  When one person with a major limitation can so subvert standard practice,  it simply becomes a farce.  I absolutely believe in modifications like peanut-free classrooms or the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Every building should be accessible to every American.  But if that American’s life is endangered by breathing the same air as other Americans, it is not for the majority to stop breathing air too, it is for the majority to help that American find a way to live within her limitations.

Another example: when I was four in Scotland I had Legg-Calve-Perthes disease of the hip.  I was in a cast for two years.  That’s not a typo.  The solution was for me to have a tutor, to attend playgoups, and to live as normal a life as I could within my limitations.  I was clearly not able to attend school, and so missed kindergarten and first grade.  Tragic at the time? Certainly.  Does it matter now?  Not one bit.  In fact, I think I did better academically in later years because I essentially had a teacher all to myself early in my school years.  Another example: Bambina’s class has kids with various forms of aspergers or autism. Each of those kids has an aide who takes care of them/directs them/essentially makes decisions for them that they are too young to make for themselves.  Bambina’s life is enriched by the presence of these kids, their lives are enriched by participating in a “regular” classroom, and–most importantly–no one is taking time out of learning to manage issues.  And no one is making my kid rinse her mouth in order to make it happen.  It’s a win-win because no one’s rights are being violated, and because everyone’s life experience is being enhanced.  Bambina learns kindness and patience and compassion–not to mention that kids whose “brains work differently” as she says, are funny and cool and neat just like her.  It removes the “otherness” from the child’s life.  At the same time, none of these kids is in mortal physical danger should the aide step away for a moment.  Which is the key difference here.

Of course, as with most child-centered issues, the primary instigator is the parent. In this unfortunate case, the father is (genuinely, I imagine) concerned with his daughter having a “normal” life with school friends and teachers and all the other things we take for granted for our kids.  I feel that, acutely.  But the father of this poor girl has taken his responsibility for protecting his daughter and spread it to a classroom full of children.  What if Bambina forgot and brought something made on the same equipment as peanuts (check the labels–there is almost nothing that hasn’t been). Now my child is responsible for killing your child?  If I had gone to a concert while immune-suppressed and died from an infection, is it the fault of the concert-goers and the band? Or is it an issue of me refusing to accept that I Can’t Do That? (Which–another post–seems to be a primary strength–and flaw–of American society).

So what is the solution?  To my mind, it is this: find this girl opportunities for education (another class, an aide, something) that allows her to do what she can, while not infringing on the rights of every single other child in the school to not be bathed by their teacher.  Sadly, there comes a point when acceptance of your child’s condition requires you to accept certain realities, unpalatable though they may be, and the better part of valor is to teach your child how to persevere regardless, how to stay positive regardless, and how to live a full life regardless.


1 Response to "Nutty as a Fruitcake"

Why can’t they just make the kid wear a mask? Too vain for that? Boohoo.

As far as the ADA goes…it saddens me that busineses are being sued left and right because they have doorknobs rather than one of those red buttons. It’s like you’re not allowed to help a poor handicap person anymore. They hate it. Hence the ADA.

“It takes a majority to have a minority”.

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