Food Allergy and Inclusion

Kristin Beltaos interviewed by Katja Rowell, M.D. for Extreme Picky Eating Help

Food Allergy and Inclusion: Introduction by Katja Rowell M.D.: Children may face eating challenges for various reasons. Children with extreme picky eating tend to experience higher levels of anxiety, around food and in general. Perhaps the most anxiety-provoking feeding challenge that parents face is life-threatening food allergies. Some children with extreme picky eating also struggle with food allergies, which can complicate the picture even further. Kristin Beltaos has made it her mission to help parents and children not just be safer and healthier, but thrive. We were intrigued and impressed with Kristin Beltaos’ work with parents, children, and schools (A Gift of Miles). She has graciously agreed to share some wisdom in our first guest blog post.

1. Food Allergy and Inclusion – Spotlight of Difference intrigues us. Can you tell us more?

First off Katja and Jenny, thank you for the opportunity to communicate with you and your followers.

food allergy and inclusionUsually when you think of placing a spotlight on a child you think of something positive, i.e., accomplishing an awesome grade, playing a great sport game, writing a wonderful paper or doing well in a recital. These are all great ways to shine a positive spotlight on a child.

It’s fascinating how when we are confronted with a challenging situation, such as creating a safe environment for a food allergic child, our initial instinct is to determine how a child will adapt to our environment, rather than how the situation can be modified so that it’s safe for everyone. When we only address the individual child it will almost always create a Spotlight of DifferenceTM.

In our efforts to create safe environments for children with food allergies, parents and schools alike often shine an unnecessary Spotlight of Difference TM on these children that I believe is a catalyst for anxiety in food allergic children as well as food allergy teasing and bullying. We need to understand that safety does not always equal separateness and vice versa. I believe it’s our inability to view the picture creatively and holistically that causes us to go the easy route and shine an unnecessary Spotlight of Difference TM.

When I use this in my training, I have attendees actually work through real life examples on how to create more inclusiveness and diminish the Spotlight of Difference TM. It’s really stirring to see people get creative and excited about how to make life for a food allergic child better. I think so often we don’t like what is happening, like an allergy table, but we don’t take the time to think about how we can do it differently.

2. Food Allergy and Inclusion – How does this relate not just to food allergies, but also children with extreme picky eating, and even beyond food, to other differences?

I think we shine a spotlight more often than we think. Let’s examine when treats are used for incentives, rewards and celebrations.

Food Allergy and InclusionI always like to share about the first year when my youngest son was old enough to eat Halloween candy. My youngest son sat down to Twix®, Milky Way® and Hershey® candy bars while my child that has food allergies had in front of him Starburst®, DOTS® and Smarties®. You cannot look at these treats and equate them as being in the same category. You can’t “sex up” the non-chocolate treats, there’s just no comparison, unless of course you aren’t a chocolate fan.

My point is, you wouldn’t have your child’s three friends over and provide three of the children with delicious chocolate and one child with the other variety. How do we solve this dilemma? If you’re having a school-wide celebration, then that means finding a treat that is safe for all based upon all the dietary restrictions whether that be food allergy, food intolerance, diabetes, Celiac disease, autism, extreme picky eating, ADD, ADHD, etc. If you’re having a classroom celebration then that means finding a safe treat based upon the dietary restrictions within each classroom.

Spotlights don’t always have to be related to food. Each child may learn to read or understand math at a different pace. Stickers, colors, or Popsicle sticks may be used to track progress. Peers will know what level you are at in reading based upon the tracking system utilized. Children may be called out in the hall, to at a separate table or moved to a different classroom for assistance. If a child is learning at a slower pace, he/she may feel embarrassed. I don’t have the answer to this type of spotlight, but as you can see, often times we probably don’t even know that we’re shining a spotlight on a child.

While it may require additional planning, many schools have successfully found ways to socialize, celebrate, incentivize, reward, learn and craft without food or within restrictions surrounding food. It simply takes a little extra effort, and more importantly; just imagine the difference you make in a child’s life that is dealing with a challenge.

To read the rest of the interview about Food Allergy and Inclusion, click to enter the Extreme Picky Eating Help website.

Food Allergies Are More Than An Awkward Moment

Food Allergies Are More Than An Awkward Moment or Two

Food allergies are more than an awkward moment, yet when you are a parent to a child with a food allergy, or you are the person who has the food allergy…most of the time you feel like you’re asking for special treatment rather than a safety requirement. We’ve all seen the eye rolls, the teasing, the telling glances and even some “friends and family” that are embarrassed of our constant questions. I have always said, “Who would ever choose to live this way?”

John Espinosa messaged me over LinkedIn and shared with me his recent food allergy experience that opened his eyes and caused him to find his voice! I’d like to share his post with you because as I advocate for my son and for other children that have food allergies I realized John’s message needs to be heard LOUD AND CLEAR. He exemplifies everything that we want our kiddos to be…to be confident enough to know who they are and what they need! We want our children to believe and communicate his same messages: “My life should be worth more to you than an awkward moment or two.” and “I’m empowering those who are peer pressured towards death to fight for their lives.”

Join me in READING his story and be sure to SHARE HIS BRAVENESS with others:

“Friday Feburary 26th was a wake up call. A white chocolate chip macadamia nut (… really cashew) cookie landed me square in the hospital. That Friday, I learned to be adamant when it comes to food allergies. Show me an ingredient list. Call out friends that snicker or roll their eyes when I ask the waiter to clarify whether kitchen equipment is scrubbed well between meals. Shut down people who bother me about how my epipens make my pants look clunky.

I AM DONE feeling like an “inconvenience. Continue reading

ALLERGY PETITION: Please Sign!

Allergy Petition — Your signature is needed!

 
PLEASE sign this allergy petition! Whether you take allergy shots or not, I AM ASKING FOR YOUR HELP! Patients are in jeopardy of not being able to start or continue in their current therapy! Allergists must be able to offer this therapy to their patients. Please read further and sign the petition, IT ONLY TAKES A MINUTE! You will be doing a service to many patients who depend on this treatment, including my son, husband and myself!
Allergy shots, also known as immunotherapy, are an important treatment that has improved the quality of life for many allergy patients: reducing symptoms, decreasing medication costs, and reducing hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room.
However, new regulations threaten to make allergy shots unavailable to many patients in the United States.
The United States Pharmacopeia (USP) is introducing new regulations that would change the procedures for mixing the allergen extracts used in immunotherapy treatments. The new requirements would make it highly unlikely that allergists would be able to continue to mix allergen extracts for their patients in the office setting. Having to use outside facilities to obtain the allergen extracts will make it very difficult or impossible for most allergists to continue offering this treatment for their patients.
How can we help?
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) is circulating a petition to tell the USP that allergy patients are considered about the proposed changes impacting access to immunotherapy, and that the current regulations should remain in place. You can also submit a public comment to the USP to voice your concerns. To submit a comment, visit the USP website, scroll to the second to last paragraph, and click on the link to the submission template you must use. Download the template, write your comments under the general comments section, and email it to CompoundingSL@usp.org by January 31st.
I appreciate your involvement both personally and professionally!
Kristin Beltaos, M.A.
Consultant and MNCPD Licensed Trainer
612.845.7585
Kristin@agiftofmiles.com
http://www.agiftofmiles.com

Create A Support System You Want and Need

Create a support system that you want and need sounds like an enormous undertaking, especially in the sometimes-harsh, female environment of snobbery and cattiness. I have wondered, is there room for friendship with women who are self confident, yearn for a true connection and mutual support through all phases of life while making beautiful and fun memories together?

Creating a support system is challenging, but can be done.

Who wouldn’t want friends like the women from Sex and the City?! They laugh, cry and fight…but are always supporting one another through it all.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life trying to find my Sex in the City version of best friends. I’ve had plenty of friends in my life; but I’ve never had the feeling, deep in my heart that these girls were here to stay. Many of my friendships felt temporary, like a new tube of mascara, short-lived as it clumps, flakes and dries out in due course. I want women who, despite our different natures, find one another inseparable as we live out the storylines of our everyday lives.

Now that I’m in my, ahem, late 40s I can finally say that I feel like my Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte are found…and I’m grateful that there are more than four fabulous women that have agreed to take me on as friends for life. ; ) A friend of mine (MK are her initials) once said to me, “I’m in this for the long haul.”

Many women have confided their difficulty in developing close friendships. I’d like to share how I managed to create a support system of beautiful women.

To create a support system means examining what kind of friend you are.

To have good friends, you must be a good friend. Be sure to clean up your clutter in order to create a support system you want and need!

To have good friends, you must be a good friend. Be sure to clean up your clutter!

“Maybe the past is like an anchor holding us back. Maybe you have to let go of who you were to become who you will be.” ~ Carrie Bradshaw

I read this interesting entry from Karol Ladd several years ago and it has stuck with me ever since, The Seven Qualities of a Good Friend. Take the time to read her entry as it’s a great way to examine what kind of friend you are. Be sure to commend yourself for your greatness and clean up the clutter that is preventing you from being the very best you can be. To create a support system, this is the first step.

Be brave enough to ask for what you want and need.

“Be bold enough to use your voice, brave enough to listen to your heart, and strong enough to live the life you’ve always imagined.” ~ Carrie Bradshaw

This one is a toughie for many, including myself. Recognize that it’s ok to ask for help, a listening ear, a closer friendship, an afternoon or night out on the town. If you don’t ask, you won’t get and if you don’t get, you’ll just continue to feel unfulfilled.

My parents are deceased, my in-laws are out of state and elderly, my brother is in California and my sister is in Massachusetts so family support is not readily at my fingertips. I had to start asking a few of my close friends if they would be my family, aunts to my boys or I would continue to feel isolated and lonely. This wasn’t easy for me…but the positive end result outweighed any anxiety I had in putting myself out there.

When you ask for what you need, be sure to clarify what family means to you and how you want to create a support system of mutual comfort. If you’re really nervous, use your sense of humor to deflect any discomfort, “I would like to have you as my family, not in a Jerry Springer way, but more along the lines of Oprah.” You get the same point across, yet explain there’s no crazy to be had. ; )

Be vulnerable enough to share.

“Maybe we can be each other’s soul mates.” ~ Charlotte York

Be vulnerable enough to share your life with others. It's the first step to create a support system you want.

Be vulnerable enough to share your life with others. Letting people in is the second step to create the support system you want.

Life has given us all a bunch of lumps along the way. Many times these lumps are truly blessings, becoming a part of our fabric and forming us into who we are.

Our ability to be vulnerable defines the closeness of our friendships. Check out this entertaining, funny and candid TED Talk from Brené Brown, she is a personal favorite of mine, on The Power of Vulnerability.

Remember after you watch the 20-minute video: We are all storytellers. We are all worthy. We all have the ability to fully embrace vulnerability. We are enough. We all want to create a support system.

Friendship needs more than a 90-minute download.

A BFF and I excited for our trip to Seattle. Create a support system by traveling with your friends.

A BFF and I excited for our trip to Seattle.

Friendships don’t magically last for forty years, you have to invest in them. ~ Carrie Bradshaw

I spoke at a conference in Seattle recently and one of my Sex and the City girls agreed to travel with me and be my Karen, Grace’s personal assistant from the show Will and Grace. In my 46 years, it was the first time that I had ever traveled with a girlfriend. In addition, it was the first time I had left my children since my eldest was 18-months old, he’s now 10.

The trip to Seattle made me realize, there is so much more past the 90-minute download. Whenever I would meet up with a friend for lunch or dinner, shopping, a movie whatever…there’s this 90-minute download that always happens to get one another caught up with what is happening in each other’s lives.

After the 90-minutes, that’s where your friendship’s story begins…

You laugh, you begin to enjoy yourself in a different way and a bond forms that one cannot experience in the traditional 90-minutes. Circling back to my Seattle trip…there were memory burns made on that trip. We were able to get outside of our roles as mothers, wives, cooks, bill payers, and of course, Queen of the Toilet Scepter. We were able to step outside of these roles and become women, our truest selves who were travelling and fulfilling our own needs, talking about what is important to us and just plain being silly.

For those of you with young ones yet, I know it sounds like it might never happen…but it will. It did for me finally at 46! Speak with your husband or partner on how to create this kind of opportunity, it doesn’t have to be a travel trip but even just day away with a friend or friends. To create a support system, you need to invest time. Continue reading

Self Carry Epinephrine: When Can My Child Carry?

Lots of questions arise when a child should self carry epinephrine.

As a child grows in independence when should a child start to self carry epinephrine? Image courtesy of Photobucket

“When should a child self carry epinephrine?” I’m asked this question a lot. First of all, it’s a decision between you and your spouse, your child and your allergist or pediatrician. It’s important to remember that we need to meet our child where he/she is developmentally and from a maturity standpoint. School staff often say to me, “We have a kindergartener that is able to self carry epinephrine, why not this child?” Ok, that’s fine if that is what the parents, physician and child have decided. However, just as 504 accommodations are not cookie cutter, meaning what works for one child may not work for another child, either is self carrying epinephrine.

When your child is ready to take on a more active role in his/her food allergy management, consider reading these posts. From the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology: age appropriateness for self-administering epinephrine and when a child assumes responsibility for self-treatment of anaphylaxis.

I haven’t come across anything written on when to transition your child to self carry epinephrine and so I decided to share with you how I have started to navigate this path. Hopefully it will give you some ideas on how to handle your child’s growing independence.

When is my child ready to self carry epinephrine?

As with many food allergic children our son is an old soul who is mature beyond his years. We were able to explain complex information, at a very young age, and knew it was understood. As a result, he became well-organized in his daily routines and knows how to take care of himself and manage his food allergies. Continue reading

Top 10 Ways to Reduce Summer Stress

Top 10 Ways to Reduce Summer Stress and Keep Kiddos Engaged

You’re busy thinking about how to reduce summer stress as another school year is draws to a close. While the first day of summer isn’t until June 21st, technically for anyone who has school age children it starts this month. For me, it’s Friday, June 5th at 3:55 p.m., the moment when those two energetic boys finish their kindergarten and third grade year and meet me in the school lobby. We will have 13 weeks together this summer…for better or worse, in begging for electronics and playing board games, in sweet never to be forgotten moments and sibling heated arguments, to laugh and to cry, till school starts again on September 8th. : )

reduce summer stress - Fun with my boys at Millennium Gardens, Plymouth, MN

Fun with my boys at Millennium Gardens, Plymouth, MN

By all means do not interpret that I think the summer will be bad, rather I’m looking forward to time together with my sons and making those memories that will warm my heart far after they have left the house, or are living in our basement. ; ) And yet…when my children are in the throws of a fiery argument of “Did you just look at me?” I think…isn’t it bedtime?

When the difficult times roll in, I always have to tell myself, “I’m normal.” I’m like every other parent out there, we’re praying for an abundance of patience, the ability to temper our temper and establish boundaries with our kiddos so that we strike a balance between family fun and our ability to administer a daily dose of self-care to maintain our sanity.

Speaking of sanity, I’ll get to the point of this entry and provide my “Top 10 Ways to Reduce Summer Stress and Keep Kiddos Engaged” this summer. This is my plan to help manage my stress and keep my boys active, engaged and enjoying this novel thing called “down time.”   : )

  1. Prevent Brain Drain During the first week off from school we head over to the Lakeshore Learning store and grab summer reading and math workbooks. Establish time for workbook, daily or a minimum of four times per week. I always expect that each workbook can be completed prior to heading back to school. Reduce summer stress by setting the expectation that workbook time is finished before any screen time can be enjoyed.
  2. Schedule Activities We live in a society that fully supports and pressures parents to over schedule their kids, so when you’re looking for activities to participate in, make sure that it’s not too heavy of a schedule for them or you. Remember, you’re the one that has to chauffer them to all of these activities, so reduce summer stress by allotting so much time for scheduled activities. ; )
  3. Quiet Time or Downtime Shhh…it’s really important that children know how to self soothe and self entertain. Ensure that there is routine downtime so that they can determine how to spend their time, develop interests, problem solve their own boredom, or do I dare say it – GASP – take a nap. Downtime is a very important element to reduce summer stress.
  4. Fun with Friends If your children are of elementary or middle school age, you’ll want to schedule some fun time with friends. That might mean some time at your local pool/beach, running off physical energy and a picnic at the park or outdoor games of volleyball, croquet, Twister, bocce ball, Chinese jump rope, water balloon fights, etc., at your house.
  5. Create Bookworms Reading not only helps to pass the day, but it increases vocabulary, comprehension and fosters a love for reading. Select a book together and take turns reading it or establish an independent reading time so that you too can sneak in some self-care time. Select a special place for your reading time, under a shady tree, the porch or nook.
  6. Lions, Tigers and Bears Oh My Check out the local attractions where you can spend the day with your kiddos learning, relaxing or having fun! Some great ideas can be found in this article, “100 Things To Do With Your Kids This Summer” or check out your local museums, amusement parks, waterparks, parks, zoos, theater, historic landmarks and other attractions. Perhaps planning something once or twice a month is best, keeping costs in mind and not encourage a bad case of the gimmies with your children.
  7. Workday Yes, we all have to do it. Laundry, dusting, vacuuming, washing the car, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, etc., doesn’t happen on its own. A workday creates ownership, responsibility and establishes each person’s contribution to the household and family unit. To reduce summer stress also means you being able to be freed up from your household duties.
  8. Rainy Day Rain is bound to show up in the forecast and having a list of rainy day activities is a definite must, i.e., movies, cook special meals, bake, board games, house hide and seek, crafts, puzzles, etc. are all possibilities in passing a dreary day.
  9. Craft Day Whether your children are wee young ones or of elementary, middle or high school age, there’s nothing like a good craft day to connect and get in touch with your creative side. While there may be some moans to start, not too soon after most will enjoy being together and making family connections.
  10. Parents Remember to Care for Yourselves In the middle of all the mayhem it’s sometimes difficult for parents to remember they have to take care of themselves too. If you’re taking care and giving all the time to your children, you’ll eventually find yourself depleted, a bit grouchy and short on patience. I’m very lucky to have a husband that recognizes that I need my downtime occasionally. I’m not certain he recognizes downtime for himself, so I push him to do things that will reenergize him. So pick up a book, go for a walk with a friend, exercise, or garden – whatever you find enjoyment in that recharges you. Additionally, don’t forget to get a babysitter. You and your partner need time to reconnect with each other and your friends.

I’ve shared my view with you; please leave a comment and share your thoughts with me.

Happy Summer!
Kristin

My Son Forgot Epinephrine: A+ Problem Solving

My Son Forgot Epinephrine: A+ in Problem Solving

He forgot epinephrine and that sounds like a nightmare.

There isn’t a quick fix to this problem, is there? There isn’t a handy dandy saying to help you, like “Stop, Drop and Roll.” You can’t cross your arms like Jeannie, blink and have Epinephrine in hand.

forgot epinephrine - Key to solving a problem? Staying calm and think about your options.

Key to solving a problem? Staying calm and think about your options.

My son is a Student Council representative. In this role, it requires him to be at school early in the morning for meetings or to work at the school store. Per his Anaphylaxis Action Plan our son is not permitted to regularly self-carry his epinephrine, only under certain conditions defined by his parents. Student Council is one of those conditions where we permit him to self-carry.

The evening prior to a Student Council morning our son takes his Emergency Medication Pack from his sports duffle bag and places it into his school backpack. On these mornings, my husband drops our son off at school. Two schoolteachers, who are familiar with our son’s food allergies and the location of the Emergency Medication Pack, staff the council meetings. Continue reading

Every Day is a Fresh Start – A Clean Slate

I sense my eldest son is working on a marvelous Mother’s Day gift in his Technology class. Technology is a fancy word for computer class.

First he asked for a picture of me in a jpg format – checkkristin-color-corrected-cropped250

Then I had to answer a few questions:

What is my job title? – Mom, Queen of the Toilet Scepter…ok I won’t tease you anymore I just said Consultant / Licensed Trainer ; )

What do I consider my greatest accomplishment? – Being a mom to my two beautiful boys.

What is something that a say all the time? I put that question back in his court…what do you think I say all the time?

I wanted to know what he thinks I say all the time. I wanted to know what he remembers. We mothers say so much that we wonder what is retained. I realize that was a risky question to put back in his court. He could say, “Eat your vegetables,” Clean up your room,” “Will you two stop arguing with one another,” “Did you do your chores?” “Is your homework done?” While I know it was risky, I had some confidence he would remember something more important, more philosophical…something that’s a tool for life.

CleanSlateHe was very proud of his choice, “Every day is a clean slate.”

I hope he always remembers that…no matter how difficult life can be…every single day is a clean slate for all of us. There’s power in knowing that things can always be turned around, that second chances are humbly given to each of us and that trying our very best is never out of our reach.

How will you spend your clean slate each day?

Book Review: My Food Allergies

Editor’s Note

It was truly an honor to have Amber DeVore, R.D. contact me to review her new book, My Food Allergies. In a straightforward manner, Amber recounts the story of her son’s first anaphylactic reaction, allowing readers to learn and have a better understanding about food allergies and anaphylaxis. The story, combined with David Robinson’s cute illustrations, creates an excellent resource to educate children about the risks and necessary care for someone with a food allergy.

Review of My Food Allergies

 My Food Allergies by Amber Devore R.D. and Illustrations by David Robinson

My Food Allergies by Amber Devore R.D. and Illustrations by David Robinson

The book has two main characters, a young boy named Kieran and his mom. After a hard day of playing baseball, Kieran comes home to eat a snack of yogurt with granola. He unfortunately has an allergic reaction, his face swells and breaks out in hives. His mom calls 911 and he is taken to the hospital via ambulance. The doctor at the hospital determines that he is allergic to nuts, which was in the granola.

Once the diagnosis is determined, the family gathers the knowledge on how to stay safe: learns what foods to avoid, how to read ingredient and manufacturing labels, carries epinephrine wherever they go, does not share food, and how to safely and positively participate in life’s activities where food is served, i.e., bring your own safe, nut-free snacks and treats.

What I found to be the most endearing aspect of this book is the interactive guide at the end. The questions posed, encourage the reader to think about and discuss how they stay safe and navigate food allergies in their own life. By including a discussion, a dialogue is created between a child and the reader, most likely a parent, family member or caregiver. The dialogue create a teaching moment where the child learns how to keep safe, care for him/herself, participate positively in his/her life, and finally, provides the opportunity for a child to discuss his/her feelings regarding having a food allergy.

My Food Allergies is an excellent selection to teach, to share and just plain enjoy!

You can find My Food Allergies on Amazon.

Epinephrine Accessibility Bill in MN Legislature

BREAKING NEWS

A bill to allow restaurants, museums, zoos, sports leagues, camps, and other venues to stock non-patient specific epinephrine has been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature this session. Commonly called an “entity bill,” HF1604 would allow various entities to store epinephrine on-site without a physician’s prescription and use it in the event of an emergency.

If the bill passes through the Legislature and is signed into law by the governor, the Minnesota Department of Health will evaluate applications from venues that wish to stock epinephrine and ensure that their staff is trained in anaphylaxis recognition and epinephrine administration by approved trainers.

The bill sponsor in the MN House of Representatives is Rep. Nick Zerwas of Elk River. “I equate it to the AED (automated external defibrillator),” said Zerwas. AEDs are found in public places and available for anyone to use in an emergency.

Senator Jim Carlson of Eagan is the Senate sponsor.   Carlson has worked on epinephrine legislation in the past, such as the school accessibility bill spearheaded by the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergy Association of Minnesota (AFAA) in 2004.

AFAA has reviewed the bill language and offered suggestions for amendments that can offered during committee hearings.  AFAA will work to organize witnesses to testify in committee hearings, and to rally public support and communication from constituents to their legislators.

The bill is anticipated to have a hearing this Friday in the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Reform Committee.  Supporters who are constituents of committee members are encouraged to contact committee members to express their support.

Stay tuned to your email in-box, my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages for upcoming legislative developments.