Sunday, August 7, 2011

How to teach a young child about their anaphylaxis - Part 1

Our son is only 2 years old. By no means am I the expert. I thought I'd start this post in the hope that other parents who have more experience than me will be able to contribute their ideas on what has worked and what hasn't. When you add your comments, could you include what age group it applies to? That will help other readers to... and if I get enough comments, I'll try and collate it according to age.

Some of the ideas I've listed are based on general parenting principles, but they have specific relevance I think when it comes to teaching children how to deal with their anaphylaxis. I am sure that as time passes, we will learn more and more about how to teach our child. We'd better anyway!

Responding to "No!" or "Stop!"- I have to admit that this is clearly an area where we struggle.Teaching a toddler to stop when they hear your stern voice would be soooooo helpful, especially when there are so many dangers around (allergy ones in particular). But we also have to work within the knowledge that curiosity is such a driving force for young ones. Sometimes their impulses are much faster than their ability to transfer hearing to thinking to action or stopping of an action.

Understanding what is a toy and what is not - from an early age we've taught our son that some things are not for him. "That's mummy's, it is not a toy. Your toys are over there." So the principle is redirection. They pick up your phone, you say no and redirect them to their toy phone. They go to your bookshelf and start pulling everything down... you say no and show them what is theirs. How is this helpful? I think it helps later on when there is food on the the table, and you say no, this is not where you play, your toys are over there.

Increased understanding of food - this includes knowing the names of foods, but also how to describe food and to some degree how foods are made. One of the fun things we have been doing is cooking with our son. He absolutely loves tasting all the ingredients. Today he tasted raw onion and pretty much spat it out. Funny! But then I told him that we have to cook it... then he gets to eat it again... Yum! Learning the different ways to describe taste encourages him to think about what is in his mouth. So learning how to detect sweet, sour, hot, cold and bitter. Even learning textures, like crunchy, soggy, smooth or rough.

Learning what makes him "sick" - this is the word we have used to describe his allergies. He knows that eating milk, eggs and prawns will make him sick. For some reason we haven't covered nuts... better put that on my to-do list. So when he asks if he can eat something, I'll say, "No, that's got cow's milk in it, so it'll make you sick."

Food toys - At a younger age, I avoided buying toy food. I didn't want my son putting a toy egg in his mouth, then finding a real one and eating or even touching it. However, now that he knows he can't eat some of these foods, I've found the toy foods very useful. He'll pretend to eat a slice of plastic cheese (the toy one I mean) then start coughing because he's sick. Sometimes we'll get him a piece of something else to eat, and I'll get the cheese. Or sometimes, I'll ask him, what kind of cheese is that? Soy or cow? If he says Soy, then we cheer and get to eat it.

The food chain - we often play with toy animals pretending to feed them. Who gets to eat grass? Who gets to eat a bone? If a cow eats a bone, he'll get sick. If dogs eat grass, they won't get bigger and bigger. What food makes you get bigger and faster? What food makes you sick? What happens if you eat grass? Yeah, best to cover all options :-) Obviously not all these questions are asked in one sitting, or the poor child won't want to play with you anymore!

Boy, this is a really long post... Ok, this is Part 1. I'm sure a Part 2 will follow soon enough. Don't forget to let me know what other ideas you have. I'm all ears!


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