Friday, October 2, 2015

Silence = EpiPen

As David’s parents, we need to communicate with other people about his life-threatening allergies. We need to tell people what his allergies are, and what the best steps are to keep him safe. We need to do this when people come to our house or when David goes to someone else’s house, when we leave David in someone else’s care, when we sit down at a restaurant, when we plan to share a meal with someone, and when David goes to school. Any failure on our part to do that is a risk to David’s life and health.

Yesterday the preschool director tried to tell us not to do that. She apparently feels she has the right to stop us from communicating with other parents about our son’s life-threatening allergies. That is wrong.

She can offer to help. She can provide us with contact info for other parents in the classroom. She can offer her advice and expertise as someone who regularly deals with the parents of 100 preschoolers about how best to communicate the necessary information. She can reinforce our message, and she can add her voice. She can offer to lend her voice of authority, and she can offer to substitute her voice of authority to better convey the needed message. Offer, not demand.

But she cannot try to silence us.

Leave aside her duty of care to the children in her preschool. Leave aside the fact that it is widespread practice for preschools themselves to communicate with parents about classroom allergies, and that she refuses to do that. That’s a separate failure.

When she tries to stop us from communicating with other parents about David’s life-threatening allergies, she raises the risks to David. She also makes us more reluctant to speak up about his allergies, which is the opposite of what every pediatrician and allergist and child psychologist recommends. That in turn makes it harder for us to teach David to speak up about his allergies himself, which every pediatrician and allergist and child psychologist will tell you is what David needs to learn to do in order to keep himself safe.

When other parents come to her with questions or doubts about David’s allergies, she has an obligation to either forcefully agree with our message or to ask those parents to talk with us directly (which is actually part of our message). If she contradicts our message, she is crossing the line from irresponsible to dangerous. She did not tell us how she actually responded to those parents, but her willingness to try to silence us does not inspire confidence.

I won’t be silenced when David’s life and health are at stake.

Lisa thinks we might have educated this preschool director, that she might have learned something from us. I hope that’s true. Because if it’s not true, I need to spend far too much time trying to find a new preschool for David and trying to find a new director for this preschool.

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