Tips For Parents And Students Who Are Contemplating Attending A Canadian University With Food Allergies

As you may know, my eldest son, Michael, is heading off to university in the fall of 2014.  The transition from high school to university is daunting for any parent, let alone a parent whose child has multiple food allergies.

Michael is allergic to dairy, egg, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, sesame, peanut/tree nuts, mustard and raspberry.

I have put together some tips for parents and students with food allergies in Grade 11/12 contemplating a university degree to share. I hope you find them helpful.

My Top Tips

1) If your high school offers a ‘University Night’…I highly recommend attending when the allergenic student is in Grade 11 and then again in Grade 12.

In Grade 11, Michael was unsure about which university he was interested in…attending the ‘University Night’ a year in advance gave him some insight into what each university offered and the potential average needed to be accepted. Attending the year ahead, relieved some of the stress and pressure for both myself and Michael…it also gave Michael something to work towards.

Attending ‘University Night’ in Grade 11, prepared Michael for Grade 12. It gave him the opportunity to select his Grade 12 courses required for the university faculty of his choice.  It prepared him for what ‘University Night’ had to offer, he knew the universities he wanted information packages from and which 3 universities he was interested in listening to their university representatives brief lecture and question period.

2)  Check out Allergic Living Magazine’s ‘Comparing Universities Chart’. Click here.

Allergic Living Magazine compares the food allergy and celiac practices of 16 Canadian Universities. I found the chart very helpful. I was totally impressed that so many Canadian Universities recognized food allergy and celiac disease. It eased some of the anxiety I was feeling regarding the practices and policies of Canadian Universities in terms of food allergies.

Click here for the ‘U.S Colleges Comparison Chart’ of 25 Colleges.

3)  Definitely book a Campus Tour at each university the allergenic student is interested in attending.

It’s even better if you invite a friend along who is also interested in applying to that particular university. Michael was uninterested in campus tours until I discovered a friend of his wanted to go. Michael seemed to discuss university more openly when his friend was present than just with myself…well, that was my experience.

I just sat back, listened and learned.

The look on Michael’s face when he walked on to his first university campus was priceless. It was a real ‘eye-opener’.

I think it is safe to say, Michael was pleased he took in a few campus tours…he was super impressed with all that the universities had to offer.

4)  If you know of someone who has recently graduated from the particular university the allergenic student is interested in attending, invite them over to discuss their experiences and recommendations.

My niece graduated last year from a university Michael and his friend were thinking to apply…I invited her over the night before the ‘big tour’.  She was able to relay her experiences living in a suite-style residence, her take on ‘student life’ and the importance of engaging in some type of extra-curricular activity at the university. She got them ‘pumped’ for university, as well as, the tour.

5)  Some universities offer a ‘Preview Day’ /‘Open House’/’Campus Day’.

I highly recommend attending a Preview Day and /or Open House for at least one of your booked tours…ours was extremely informative.

6) Be sure to ask your tour guide about the universities specific food allergy policies.  It certainly helped to give both Michael and I a better idea of which universities would be a good fit for Michael and all his food allergies. Interesting to note which university tour guides were prepared for such questions, which universities had someone available to discuss specifics…basically, a university with a plan.

The strength of a university also depends on their ability to meet the needs of the allergenic student’s food allergies. Check out each university’s food allergy policies on their websites.

7)  Acceptance to some Canadian Universities may be based on the student’s Grade 11 average and their Grade 12 mid-term marks.

Michael received 2 conditional offers from 2 Canadian Universities during his final first semester exams.

Michael has some big decisions to make in the next few months.

I really think visiting the university campuses he applied to, learning about the faculty he is interested in taking at each of them and enquiring about their food allergy policies will better enable Michael to choose which university will be the best ‘fit’.

Once all Michael’s conditional offers from the 3 Canadian Universities he has applied to have arrived…he will make his decision.

 

It’s Been A Journey Preparing For University With Multiple Food Allergies And Eczema

My eldest son, Michael, will be heading off to university in the fall of 2014. He will be one amongst the many youths eager, excited and yet, a little anxious to start a new chapter of their lives.

Michael’s university experience, however, will have an added layer. What will set him apart is not his average, his sense of adventure or his charm…Michael has multiple food allergies…dairy, egg, beef, lamb, fish, shellfish, peanut/tree nuts, sesame, mustard, and raspberries.

Michael is about to embark on a journey that has been in development since he was born.

As parents, we nurture our children, teach them right from wrong, provide them with choices, watch them fall, help them find ‘their feet’ and pick themselves back up again, guide them, encourage them to learn from their mistakes, remain a strong support system, love them through out it all and then hope that all the experiences they have encountered in their lifetime with us has prepared them to meet the ‘real world’.

For Michael, and many other children, personal medical conditions add another element to their ‘life’s journey’.  An element that ‘stirs the pot’ so to speak. Leaving parents and children ‘grasping for straws’ to find their way.  I look back now and wonder how either of us survived the displacement…it was a time in my life full of confusion.

However, to look at Michael now…I know, as parents, we must have done something right. 🙂

In my eyes, the ‘Grade School Years’ were the hardest…Michael suffered greatly from eczema. (Although, he would argue that having food allergies were worse, but then again, his memory of the eczema years is murky…thank goodness!)

At the time, I felt his food allergies seemed manageable in comparison to the many bouts of infection he endured.  His food allergies ‘took the back seat’ until his eczema started to clear around Grade 7.  Until then, I felt tortured by the fact that there seemed to be ‘no method to the madness’ of his eczema.

My eyes would well, my throat would constrict as I held back the tears while I bathed and creamed his wounded body. 

Below are a list of a few of the posts I have written concerning Michael’s journey with his food allergies and eczema:
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Talking About Atopic Dermatitis”.
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Suffocating With Multiple Food Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis: Taking a Breathe In Scotland.”
Click here for a post I wrote titled, “Hockey Dominates Atopic Dermatitis and Asthma”.

During those turbulent years, I would find as many distractions as I could to keep Michael from scratching his already weakened skin…reading, games, puzzles and lots of Barney videos to keep him occupied and entranced.

Once school started, warm classrooms and stress increased his ‘itchiness’ making it harder for him to concentrate.  For many years, Michael and I would sit after school to review the day’s work and practice in a supplementary work book. Breaks consisting of sitting in front of a fan or sticking his head outdoors to cool down were often.

All I can remember at that time was how imperative it was to me that he learn the ‘basics of reading, writing and arithmetic’. I worried that the ‘window of opportunity’ for learning these ‘basics’ would pass him by and he would spend the rest of his educational life ‘catching up’.

I emphasized the fact that everything he was learning was needed for his ‘journey of life’.  He needed to ‘pack’ all that he was learning in a ‘suitcase’ to bring along with him.  No matter how much he may or may not be enjoying the work…he needed to ‘pack it’.

As he got older, I would review what he had ‘packed’ proving just how important he needed each and every step of his learning. For example, knowing how to add helps with subtracting…just as knowing one’s multiplication tables makes division that much easier. Over the years, my metaphor of a ‘suitcase’ became a symbol of his accomplishments.

Michael struggled to do well in school but it wasn’t until around Grade 7 that everything fell into place for him. As his eczema started to heal, he started to sleep through the night. This in turn allowed him to focus better in school and that is when the ‘light bulb’ went off. Everything started to make sense to him…as if the items in his ‘suitcase’ were finally coming together.

The desire and ability to do well finally came together for him. He graduated Grade 8 with Honours and was the recipient of the Christian Spirit  Award.

The common thread throughout our journey has been hope

…the hope that Michael’s choices would not be controlled by his eczema and food allergies.
…t
he hope that his eczema and food allergies would act as a catalyst for learning compassion, building a strong sense of sense, confidence and esteem.
…the hope that he would one day outgrow his eczema and food allergies.
…the hope that he would see his own potential and strive to reach his goals.

So here we are now…Michael in his final year of high school. His ‘suitcase’ has served him well. I know he has all the tools he needs to achieve the average needed for the university of his choice. It’s all up to him. Just one more semester to go.

My hope now for Michael and all youth out there with food allergies embarking on their new paths…universal acceptance.

Times are changing…the more society, immediate family, friends, peers, and educational establishments recognize the importance of embracing our children with food allergies…the easier it will be for these students to achieve their personal goals.

Hope, support, choice, faith and change have played a major role throughout Michael’s journey. They have made him who he is today…a young man with big dreams with the self-esteem, ability and opportunity to reach them…and one proud mom!

Planning For University With Multiple Food Allergies…Allergic Living Magazine To The Rescue

Love the front page side bar on Allergic Living Magazine’s Fall 2013 edition it reads:

“Colleges Get Allergy Aware: Free-from meals and educated chefs are the new normal”

Perfect timing…my eldest son is in his last year of high school.

Planning for university next year is forefront of my mind…especially since he has multiple food allergies (dairy, egg, beef, lamb, peanut/tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, mustard and raspberry).

Seems like Allergic Living Magazine is on the ‘same ‘page’.

I can hardly believe it is time for my oldest to head off to university. At the same time, I am coming to terms with ‘wrapping my head around’  all the multiple food allergy issues that will inevitably play a part of his decision-making process.

Allergic Living Magazine’s article titled, “Learning Curve” was just what I needed to put my mind at ease…included in the article is a university ‘to-do list’ to follow.

Another great piece of information…a chart that compares allergy practices in Canadian Universities. Click here for the link.

Michael and I are planning to visit a few Universities this fall…with all this great information, we will be prepared to ask informative questions. Not only does Michael need to choose a university to meet his educational pursuits…he needs to find a university that will accommodate his unique food allergies.

I would love to hear from anyone who has already been through this process or is at the same place as we are…any tips would be helpful.

I hope to keep you up-to-date on our progress…as Michael prepares to head off in a new chapter of his life.