Special Needs: Allergies are likely the most common
problem teachers face in the classroom, because allergies are on
the rise in all children and are considered a special
Twenty percent of Americans are affected by some sort of
allergies, and 8 percent of children under age 6 have food
intolerances or allergies.
What is an allergy?
An allergy is an overreaction of the body to an irritating
substance (allergen) in food, the air, medication, or insect stings
and bites. Some children with special needs have a latex allergy
that's specific to certain syndromes or disorders.
What does an allergy look like?
Some of the symptoms of an allergy include a runny nose,
sneezing, runny eyes, wheezing, interference with breathing, a
swollen face, and/or itchiness (hives/red blotches/eczema).
Symptoms may appear very quickly upon exposure to the allergen. A
reaction to an allergen can be severe (anaphylaxis) and require
immediate medical attention. An anaphylactic reaction shows
symptoms of a tingling or warm sensation, hives, wheezing or
difficulty breathing, or vomiting.
What are practical ways to help a child with
Some things you can do or be aware of to help a child with
allergy-related special needs:
- Be aware of latex products (balloons, rubber bands, bandages,
latex paints, latex gloves, pacifiers, and bottle nipples) that
children could be allergic to.
- Keep up-to-date on common food allergies such as eggs, milk,
chocolate, shellfish, fruits, tree nuts (walnuts and cashews),
peanuts, soy, tomatoes, and wheat products. Check out Web sites
such as www.foodallergy.org to keep up-to-date.
- Ask parents if their child has any known allergies you need to
be aware of, and have a quick, easy-to-use form to make appropriate
- Be aware of the nature of the allergic reaction for the child
and what you are to do...especially if the parents aren't
- Minimize a child's exposure or triggers to known allergens.
Evaluate your classroom for items that may cause an allergy problem
for a particular child: chalk dust, dry clay, tempera paints,
formaldehyde used in bookbinding/
- plywood/particle board, classroom dust, dust mites,
cockroaches, feathers, animal dander, mold, tree and plant pollen,
- Know what to do for an insect sting. If a child is allergic to
insect stings, parents will normally carry the necessary medication
to avoid anaphylactic shock.
- Post the day's snack outside your classroom door so parents can
ask questions and warn you about any allergies their child
- Before giving a snack, ask the class if anyone is allergic to
the snack. Usually children will say something to you before you
even ask the question. This should be part of their responsibility
to learn to say no.
- Have the child's parent bring in a special snack for the child
if the child's allergies are food related.
- Treat each child as special and part of God's plan. God has put
you in a special place of ministry and servanthood for all the
children-with or without special needs.
[Q]: I'm a second-grade Sunday school teacher,
and I have a little girl whose older sister displays many autistic
tendencies. The older sister functions better in my classroom, but
the two sisters become a behavior problem when they're together.
What can I do?
[A]: First talk to the parents to find out why
there's a behavior problem. Is this problem just in this particular
setting? Is the younger sister not dealing with her sister's
disability? Is she embarrassed by her sister? Does the older sister
realize she's in a younger classroom? Then two options would be to
see if there's another classroom the older child can go to or ask
for a volunteer to work with her in her grade-level classroom.
Special Foods for Special Kids: Practical Solutions &
Great Recipes for Children With Food Allergies by Todd Adelman
and Jodi Behrend is chock-full of information regarding allergies
to dairy, gluten, and eggs. Plus, you'll get over 100 kid-tested
recipes for favorites such as smoothies, cookies, and vegetable
"fun-do." $20; Robert D. Reed Publishers; (541) 347-9882;
Sally Castle is associate professor of special education at
Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Please keep in mind that
phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to