I am JJ: Let's lower the anxiety level at school for kids w/ allergies


Food Allergy School CANpaign: A child cannot learn if a child feels unsafe

As we start Week 2 of our Food Allergy School CANpaign, I want to speak just a bit more about the first Can word we explored last week — Control. 

Experts say a child cannot learn if a child feels unsafe. Thus, if a child is on high alert every second in the classroom because she is scared of her allergy, will she really learn math or English or science or anything? Will a child with a food allergy focus on a test if she is anxious? Will she have normal social interactions with peers if he is always jittery and cautious?

We need to find ways to lower the anxiety levels at school for children with allergies. If children feel they have no control, if they feel they are walking through a minefield every time they enter the schoolhouse door, their academic, social and emotional development will suffer.

One way to reduce the anxiety is making children aware of all the things they can control.

To that end, I’m starting to create a comprehensive list of all the things a student with a food allergy can control in school. The list will be age appropriate, of course. A Kindergarten doesn’t have as much control as an fifth grader or a middle schooler or a high school senior, but that future scholar still has some control.

You think kids know what they can control? They don’t.

And it’s not just the kids, either. 

When it comes to the allergy, what can the classroom teacher or school nurse or principal control? Without ostracizing or blaming them, we need to make educators aware of what control they really do have when it comes to dealing with an allergy.

And, even though parents aren’t sitting with their children in class or at lunch or in the library, they have control too. Do they know what control they have?

In the comments below, let’s list all the things kids and teachers and parents can control when it comes to dealing with an allergy and school.

Here are some examples to start…

  • At lunch, a child can control what’s in his lunchbox.

  • In the classroom, a teacher can control what rules she has for food in the classroom.

  • A parent can control the tone of the first food allergy meeting with the principal and teacher.

Comment below. 


JJ Vulopas is a senior at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. An advocate for young people, JJ has lived with food allergies his entire life. He is the author of the children's book, Land of Not. You can read his daily blog at www.thelandofcan.com and follow him @thelandofcan on Twitter and Instagram.