Setting up special accommodations for my daughter’s education

As I have mentioned numerous times on my blog, Lexie has a variety of medical issues. The only ones affecting her daily life right now are her eczema and allergies.

At six, her eczema has really gotten under control. Her skin is looking better, and we haven’t been doing anything different. She puts Vaseline on before baths, and that is about it. It still mainly affects her legs with her ankles being the worst.

As for her allergies, they still cause her to scratch some, but we just deal with it and dutifully give her antihistamines daily. Actually all summer, I gave her no medications, and she did fine. It wasn’t until middle August that something made her start itching again. It is always worst August and September, for some reason. (For those of you who don’t know Lexie’s history, she was diagnosed at age 2 with being allergic to a long list of things, so there is little chance we will pinpoint what causes the flare up during these months.)

I am not sure what triggered the school to flag Lexie as someone who needs extra attention. But last year, I received a Section 504 notice. This was in reference to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Under Section 504, schools must provide individuals with disabilities accommodations to help them receive an education equal to that of the other students.

I had no clue that her allergies would qualify her for that, but it does. I guess they consider allergies – especially a possible life-threatening one (Lexie received an epi pen 18 months ago) to be a physical issue that they needed to make a plan for even though I don’t think they limit her life activities in a way that garners special attention.

For whatever reason, last year we had a meeting with the counselor, principal, her teacher, and the nurse to discuss what the school needed to do to accommodate Lexie. I told them of her medical history, and that she had been to preschool without any problems. There really wasn’t much that needed to be done besides watch for allergic reactions and try to curb her desire to scratch.

Earlier this month, I had our annual review on her 504 plan. Now this came three days after meeting with Lexie’s teacher to discuss her involvement in RAP – a reading program that Jase did last year. It is designed to help those students who need extra help with reading.

On Lexie’s reading test in September, she was assessed at a reading level of D. This level is an end of kindergarten/beginning of first-grade level. I would think this is an appropriate level but guess not. Her teacher thinks she would benefit from the extra reading help. And as I did with Jase, I gave my approval. How could I not want them to read better?

So now her enrollment in RAP is part of her 504 accommodations even though it has no correlation to her physical “disability.” They are also offering to tutor her during school hours if she needs it. But these are all things that would have been offered even if she didn’t have allergies. Now it is just written down in the records- in case someone wanted to complain that she wasn’t being treated fairly.

Choosing school-day breakfasts my kids will actually eat

breakfast girlI have heard all the reports and experts spout out about how a good breakfast is essential for your kid to start off the day right and learn more in school. The problem is how to get my kids to EAT that breakfast.

I went to seven different websites looking for breakfast suggestions. (I found these websites by doing a search for kids and breakfast.) Here are their suggestions and why most won’t work for my family.

Website #1 (www.npr.org)

Suggestion #1  – Peanut butter toast and a glass of milk

Child 1 – won’t eat peanut butter or toast.

Child 2 – allergic to peanuts, won’t eat bread and doesn’t drink milk.

Suggestion #2 – breakfast burrito (scrambled eggs and salsa on whole-wheat tortilla)

Child 1 – doesn’t eat eggs.

Child 2 – will eat eggs and tortilla (has not had them together) – no salsa – This one might be doable.

Suggestion #3 – whole-grain toast with melted low-fat cheese and tomato

Child 1 & 2 – won’t eat cheese, toast or tomato.

Suggestion #4 – whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk

Child 1 – will eat cereal with milk  – but we already had this down as a possible breakfast item.

Child 2 – nope, might eat cereal but not with milk and usually doesn’t eat enough cereal to count.

Their foods to avoid: soda, chips, sugary cereal, breakfast pastries, donuts

Website #2 (www.bhg.com)

Again, they list things my kids won’t eat – cheese, trail mix, cottage cheese. They do list yogurt as a good choice but this is one of the lunch choices for Lexie, and since she can’t have too much dairy it is either a breakfast OR lunch item – not both.

Website #3 (www.babycenter.com)

This one was heavy on the smoothie suggestion. I might have to try this at least for Lexie. Another option was fruit salad with a dollop of yogurt but again, this is usually Lexie’s lunch, so I don’t know if I can do it in the mornings too.

pancakesWebsite #4 (www.parenting.com)

Suggestions – various muffins, Ham & Cheese sandwiches, pancakes and smoothies. Pancakes my kids like but I don’t know that I will have time for this on very many mornings.  Some of their recipes such as breakfast tortillas had a 45-minute prep time. I don’t have time for that!

Website #5 (minesota.cbslocal.com)

This one featured a registered dietician who suggested you include items from three food groups: whole grains, proteins and fresh fruit. She suggested cereal but not every day. Her suggestion: oatmeal made the night before. And you know what – you guessed it – my kids don’t like oatmeal!

Her next suggestion – apple sandwich. No bread or peanut butter eaten here so that is out. After that she suggests ham and cheese on a tortilla. No cheese for my kids. Thanks, but not much help on this site for the picky eater.

Website #6 (kidshealth.org)

This site says any breakfast is better than no breakfast. (Totally agree with that!) It says to avoid doughnuts and pastries. (Agree with this in theory at least but sometimes something is better than nothing.) They say if you eat a doughnut, you won’ feel full for long. I think the same thing about eating fruit for breakfast.

Cereal and orange juice uid 1197396Their list of traditional breakfast items: eggs (yes for Lexie, no for Jase), waffles or pancakes (yes for both), cold cereal (yes for Jase, no for Lexie), hot cereal (no for both), toast or English muffins with cheese (no for both), yogurt with fruit (Lexie might go for this but again, this is my plan of what to send for her lunch), fruit smoothies (willing to give this a try again).

Website #7 (www.education.com)

Here they suggest hard-boiled eggs (again, something my kids won’t eat), muffins (again a no), pancakes (ok), omelets (Jase doesn’t eat eggs and Lexie is fine with just plain scrambled eggs – she won’t eat the veggies they suggest adding to the eggs) and then the list goes to more no items – cheese, bread, peanut butter and oatmeal.

Pintrest has a lot of good-looking breakfasts for kids but just because you shape something into a lion or bear doesn’t mean my kid will eat it. Plus who has the time during the busy school morning rush to create these meals.

So needless to say my search online has only added smoothie to my possible breakfasts. I know you shouldn’t load them up with sugary food before school but sometimes that might be the only way to get my 5-year-old to eat something, and something is better than nothing.

Unknown allergies are hard on everyone

As I have mentioned numerous times on this blog, my daughter Lexie has allergies to many, many things. They have done blood tests to determine some of those items, but a lot of our discovery is just by trying something.

Sometime last year, we looked down at Lexie’s legs as she sat at the dining room table. There were little red spots on her legs. We were unsure what they were but thought maybe they were bug bites she had scratched. You see scratching and Lexie go hand in hand. She has eczema and scratches a lot. Many of her allergies don’t cause nasal congestion or hives.  They cause her to scratch.

CIMG1960Anyway, back to the story. The red spots went away, and we didn’t think about it again. Those same red spots didn’t reoccur until this June. When Lexie came back from a backyard Bbile camp at a neighbor’s house her legs were covered in red spots again. We thought it might be because they were outside (she is allergic to grass) or possibly something in their house. This time the red spots didn’t go away as fast. In fact, almost two weeks later, they were still looking bad, so we made an appointment with the allergist.

The allergist took one look at them and decided we need to use an oral steroid to clear them up. She also prescribed an antibiotic. It took a good 6-7 days before the spots cleared up.

All seemed good until a Friday morning in July. I recall that on Thursday night Lexie’s eczema on her legs was flaring, and I told my husband that we would need to watch it. Friday morning we were bowling. At the alley, I looked at her legs. They were covered in red spots. This time it wasn’t just her legs but also her bottom too. By Saturday, she had them on her arms, back and face.

We tried treating them with the prescription hydrocortisone medicine the dermatologist had prescribed for her eczema and used antihistamines prescribed by the allergist. Lexie wasn’t really uncomfortable but her legs especially looked horrible, so we decided to take her to the doctor on Monday.

CIMG1959At our pediatrician’s office, you can get same-day  appointments, but you rarely see your doctor. Many of the other doctors know Lexie, but we ended up with a doctor we had not seen before. By the time we had made the appointment, I had already spent time sitting down and trying to recreate where we had been the few days before each instance. It was then I found the connection – the bowling alley. We had gone there the morning of Backyard Bible Camp. I first noticed the spots this time at the bowling alley. Even the spots we saw last year might be from our trip to the bowling alley because we had gone around then.

I don’t know if it is the disinfectant on the shoes, what they clean the alley with, floor treatment or what, but I feel certain that it is something at the bowling alley causing these outbreaks. The doctor agreed that it was probably allergies. When I said I had taken her to the allergist last time it happened he asked if they had diagnosed what she was allergic to. Obviously, he doesn’t know Lexie.  When he heard about her allergies, he asked if she ate anything that day at the bowling alley. She had pretzels from home. Of course, she tested allergic to wheat, so he thinks that it could have been that she had TOO many pretzels. Yeah. Right. She eats pretzels almost every day. Why hadn’t she broken out in the past 532 days of pretzel eating? He talked about body thresholds and allergies which I already know just through my own experiences with her. She can eat a little of some items, but if she eats too much, then she does itch. But this was the only food she had had that morning. And since the last incident happened at the bowling alley (without pretzels) I am sure it is something there.

He prescribed oral steroids and another ointment to try on the spots. After six days, the spots faded. He didn’t prescribe an antibiotic, and I wish he had. Whenever she scratches a lot, infections generally occur, and she did develop one on her leg.

So now we have resolved that we just won’t go bowling – or at least not this summer. The doctor had suggested some precautions – wearing long pants, taking steroids before we go, wiping down anything she might touch with Clorox wipes and bringing a blanket for her to sit on – before we go bowling again, but I don’t think I want to take the risk.

The hardest thing is everyone seems to think that finding out what caused an allergic reaction should be easy. But it isn’t. The allergist knows this. Tons of articles online reiterate this point. But some doctors, friends and family all seem to think that it should be easy to discover. You come in contact with so many different substances in the day, how do you narrow down what caused the reaction, especially when the reaction can happen minutes or even hours later? All of her food allergies usually happen within 30 minutes but none so far have happened instantly.

Ambloypia and allergy update

As I have mentioned before on this blog, my daughter Lexie suffers from eczema (exacerbated by her allergies) and has amblyopia. In the past two weeks we have visited the ophthalmologist and the allergist so I thought I would give an update.

Amblyopia

Lexie was diagnosed with amblyopia in June of 2012. We started patching her “lazy” eye at the end of August 2012. A year later there has been a VAST improvement. Her doctor was thrilled with the results. In the beginning we patched her “good” eye (which causes the lazy eye to have to work) for four hours a day. It then went down to two hours a day. Now we are down to just a half an hour each day! We go back again in two months for a follow up.

eyeglasses_2270_129578649At the appointment he also dilated her eyes to see if she needs a new prescription for glasses. Wow did her prescription change. Her vision has gotten so much better but not clear enough for her not have glasses. She picked out new frames – red with butterflies on the sides. They aren’t the ones I would have chosen but hey, I don’t have to wear them. As long as she likes them and hopefully wears them. We have been fighting with her lately to get her to wear her current glasses.

Allergies

We had not been to the allergist in over a year as the antihistamine prescribed (Xyzal daily) had been handling her scratching relatively well. But when it came time to refill it this month, they wanted an appointment before renewing it. The appointment came at a good time as the week prior, Lexie had attended a bible camp and had come back with some bumps on her legs. She proceeded to scratch them which of course made her legs look bad. My husband wanted the doctor to prescribe a steroid to clean up the marks while I was thinking a prescription for an antibiotic might be enough. It turns out that we both got our wish. I came out of the appointment with a record SEVEN prescriptions.

Besides the oral steroids and antibiotics, the doctor renewed her antihistamine and prescribed a second one for nighttime to see if that would reduce any scratching at night. She also gave us one for a nasal spray to use during the few months of a year that Lexie’s allergies result in a runny nose.

The last two prescriptions were for emergency drugs. While at the appointment, I relayed to the doctor an incident in March where after we had been out to eat, Lexie began complaining that her throat hurt. Within an hour, she was covered in hives. We ended up giving her Benadryl and calling the Nurse’s line. The nurse increased the amount of Benadryl we gave her to 2 teaspoons and suggested taking her to the ER if she didn’t improve in thirty minutes. Luckily within thirty minutes, Lexie was fine. The thing that concerned us and her doctor was her throat hurting. It might have been because it was closing due to the allergic reaction. So we got a prescription for an Epi Pen Jr. and a lesson on how to use it. The last prescription was for a chewable steroid to keep in a medicine key chain that had some Claritin in it. We are to give Lexie the pills if she ever breaks out in hives like that again. Of course we haven’t had an incident like that again so far but the scary thing is we don’t know what triggered it.

Why my kids don’t spend a lot of time outside

I often hear people on Facebook or elsewhere lamenting about kids today spending so much time watching TV and playing video games. “I remember when I was a child we spent all day outside,” they say. Well, I am 40 and yes I do remember playing outside without a lot of the concerns of the present day. We did wander the neighborhood, returning when it got dark. But I do remember spending time inside – watching TV and playing video games just as my kids do right now.

Now while everyone is saying kids should be spending more time outside, I don’t usually push my kids to go out to play. And there are a few reasons for that.

Sun1.) The Texas Heat – It is hot here for a good 7-8 months of the year. The time period of “nice” weather for spending time outside is relatively short. In the summer, it is unbearably hot if you are out after 10 am. In March, we already were in the 80s and by May, it was the low 90s. We spend a lot of time in the pool in the summer trying to cool off.

2.) Allergies – Lexie unfortunately is allergic to grass and everything from dust to pollen. Any time spent outside will cause her to scratch. We usually do outside play in small doses and only after taking an extra antihistamine.

3.) Ants & Mosquitoes – This is on the lower end of the scale but there are lots of ants outside. You have to watch where you walk. It isn’t like when I was a kid, and we went barefoot outside a lot. Here if you did that, you will be covered in ant bites. We usually treat the yard for them but that just seems to make them move to another area of the yard. And I don’t know what it is about mosquitoes but they seem to love me and Lexie. This makes bug spray important!

Any adventures outside during the summer are left to the early morning hours or late evening hours. Now this is not say that my kids spend all summer sitting inside. We plan trips to the museum, the library and to indoor play locations. We go to water parks and the pool. They play inside with their friends. And yes, they do watch movies in the afternoons or read books and yes – sometimes play video games.