Bullies Target Food-Allergic Kids

Wednesday August 29, 2012

By Sherri M. Gordon

It's hard enough for food-allergic kids to avoid foods that have peanuts, tree nuts or even sesame seeds in them. But imagine how tough it is when someone chases you around a birthday party threatening to shove a cupcake in your face. This incident is just one of several my food-allergic niece has experienced.

In fact, she feels kids pay too much attention to her food allergies. Not only does this unwanted attention cause her to feel like she is different, but it can get invasive too. Kids taunt her with food she can't eat and make fun of her for carrying an EpiPen to lunch. Unfortunately, her experience is not uncommon.

As the number of children with food allergies begins to rise, doctors are becoming aware of a disturbing trend in which food-allergic children are getting bullied for not being able to eat certain foods. In fact, preliminary research suggests that about one in three food-allergic kids is taunted or physically abused at school due to their allergies.

Bullying with regard to food allergies isn't all that different from other forms of bullying. However, kids with food allergies are already carrying the burden of trying to make sure their meals are safe. So when bullies make this challenge even more difficult, it creates an inordinate amount of stress on the child.

Additionally, parents of severely allergic students often find themselves in a struggle with school administrators to help protect their children. Even schools with policies regarding food allergens can be lacking in support.

Although my sister hasn't had any problems in dealing with her daughter's school, some parents have had to take things a step further and apply for a 504 plan, which is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a result, if another student bullies or taunts their child because of her allergy, it is considered a case of discrimination against a disability.

If you have a food-allergic child, check out 9 Ways to Help Your Food-Allergic Child Deal With Bullying.You also may find 10 Ways to Address Bullying of Special Needs Kids useful.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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