Disaster averted

The short version: A parent packed a PB&J for his kid that is allergic to peanuts and has an Epipen. I kid you not.

The long version: The secretary came in a huff to my office today to tell me that a student that we have an Epipen and care plan for had a PB&J in his lunch. He’s in the special day class and had an IA watching over him, who noticed the odd sandwich and called the office. I was given the suspect sandwich and brought the student back to my office. I could not imagine it was actually peanut butter, so I figured it was one of the alternative peanut-free butters they have on the market now. Still, it smelled like peanut butter…looked like peanut butter…After a couple of tries to his parent’s cell phone, dad picked up. I explained the situation, saying, “I’m sure it’s not, but have to double check just to be sure…”
“Yes it’s peanut butter,” he said matter-of-factly, as if to say, what’s the big deal?
“Well, he’s allergic to peanuts, according to his emergency card, and we have an Epipen for him, so I’m not going to let him have the sandwich.”
“Oh…hmm. I thought he’d had peanuts recently…I’ll have to talk to his mother.” 
Okay. I do not care if you hate your child’s other parent, you at least have to work together enough to keep the kid alive. I bit my tongue, “Well, it’s possible that he grew out of it, but I’m not going to give him the sandwich. I’ll find him something else in the cafeteria.” I didn't feel like rolling the dice on this one. 

The saddest part about this is that this kid did not understand why his dad would pack him a sandwich he could not eat. Cheers to his IA for looking out for him. 


Pink Legos

(That's Lego bricks to you, if you're outside North America. We say Legos, you say Lego bricks.) 

I was helping with vision screening in a new school, and I’m not sure what I did differently that morning, but I had more than a few of the elementary student girls say to me, “You’re pretty.” It was a nice compliment, but now that I have a daughter of my own, I think about these things more...Why is a second grader so concerned with how I look?… Which brings me to the topic of pink Legos.

Pink Legos are not the kind of thing that I pictured myself taking issue with before I had my daughter. But when she received a Christmas package containing pink Legos, I felt it was my motherly duty to intercept and exchange them for the “regular” kind. For those that don’t know, Legos apparently come in two different kinds now – the mostly green/red/blue/yellow set you’re used to, and a pink set marketed for girls with pink/purple blocks. First I thought I time-traveled back to the 1950’s, but no, pink Legos are a thing because, you know, girls need separate building toys. What?! I can sort of understand it when, say, a 7 year old whose favorite color is pink picks out the pink Lego set. Cool, she’s building stuff. But to give only pink things to a 1 year old just because she is a girl, I can’t stomach it, and would rather risk offending a gift giver than suggest to my daughter that she can only have pink things because she’s a girl. (She’s a girl whose favorite color happens to be blue right now, by the way: blue socks, blue pants, blue blankets.)

The toy I found more offensive than Pink Legos though, was given to her for her first birthday: a Fisher Price mirror set with makeup brushes. Because that is what a 12 month old needs, right? WRONG. I won’t even link the toy here because I am grossed out by the positive reviews on it.

A couple of link-worthy articles on the subject:

Target has its problems, but even they are inching toward neutrality, by fixing their toy aisles and making some pretty cool kid bedding. (Kid bedding. Not boy bedding or girl bedding.)

My daughter turns 2 (TWO!) next week, and if there’s one thing I want to do for her, it’s to teach her she’s more than just a pretty face. 



I don’t generally go to IEP meetings because I’m not relevant to most and feel like I have better things to do with my time. In the last few weeks, though, here’s a smattering of some I’ve had the privilege of attending:
-          For a student who has absence seizures who frequently does not take her medication. Is she having seizures all day long at school, then? Perhaps. Do we think that may be impacting her learning? Um…yes. Mother of this child, do you understand you are the parent and are in charge of whether or not she takes her medication? Apparently not.
-          For a student whose grandma has turned in doctor’s notes for 35+ days of absences this year (in addition to the multiple funerals and other days she’s been excused from). Guess what, granny? I spoke to the doctor himself, and he says she needs to be in school. Hey doc, can you stop writing notes for this kid when she’s not actually sick? Oh…well, it’s my medical assistant writing them. Turned out the student qualified for a more restrictive environment/special education class, and would clearly benefit from that, but Granny is going to let the kid decide. Granny, her IQ is in the 50’s and you’re the legal guardian. YOU decide what’s best for your child, you don’t let a 7 year old make a decision like this about her education.
-          For a student who I heard was a picky eater. When I asked the student himself about his eating habits, he said, “I eat only carbs, mostly sugar.” I asked him what was in his lunch for the day and heard, “Fruit Loops and cookies.” I called his mom to discuss my report with her – and his incredible anxiety during my low-key vision/hearing screenings and got caught on the phone for a 45 minute call with mom in tears at one point telling me her many, many worries. This would be an example of ATS: apple tree syndrome. Didn’t fall far here. The good news: the kid eats like crap, but at least the parents care. (The entire family is in therapy.)

I’m also in the process of preparing for another one for a student reported to have been born very prematurely into a toilet in El Chapo’s town of residence. On his health history page, grandma writes under concerns, “doesn’t learn, likes girly things.” First, everyone learns. Second, granny, liking girly things is not a health concern, or a problem of any sort. Welcome to 2016. 


BMI testing

Our state does height and weight measurements as part of the physical fitness testing in 5th grade (and maybe other grades, too). I *HATE* doing both. It is incredibly stressful to the kids, particularly the outliers in both height and especially weight. I do it as privately as possible, but it still sucks for them. It never fails that I hear later that someone returned to class crying, no matter how discrete I am. An obese 5th grader will already know he/she is larger than his/her peers, and doesn’t need a scale to say so. So, here’s another study in which research dollars funded an obvious answer to a question: BMI measurements at school are ineffective.



When your work computer craps out on you and when you turn it into Tech Services for repair, they say they'll email you when it's ready to be picked up. Also, they don't provide loaners, you have to go around begging for a spare computer to use to write your reports. Gah.

On another note, join a cool club here! Research is important, these surveys hardly take any time at all (and sometimes you get Amazon gift cards in return), and you're doing something good for our species. If you're a nurse, join in the fun.



There is only one Frequently Asked Question I get, and it’s this one: Why aren’t you posting as much anymore? The answer is, I don’t see kids as much anymore. Unless I am covering for an LVN – which, per my contract, I am not supposed to have to do – I can easily go a day or two, or more without even seeing a single student. Your next question is probably going to be: what the heck do you do all day then?

Much of my work time is IEP assessment-related. It is coordinating an assessment with the staff (usually the school’s resource teacher or speech therapist), assessing the student, and then writing the report on that student. Parents fill out a detailed questionnaire on their student’s health history, and I include that in my report along with hearing and vision screening results. The majority of times, the students pass hearing and vision, I type up verbatim what the parent’s form says, and  move on. It feels like busy work, and unfortunately, what I spend the most of my time doing, I like the least. I just don’t see the point of spending an hour or two writing a lengthy report on a student that has been in Special Ed for five years for, say, a lisp. I don’t see why whether he was born via a C-section vs. vaginal delivery is of any relevance to his IEP. It can be interesting stuff sometimes (it is incredible to me the number of children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy), but we’re trying to further the kiddo’s current education, not perform a study about how smoking affects kids. I’ve made the suggestion to my colleagues that perhaps some of these things we are expected to include on our report are not actually relevant to the reason we’re having a meeting, but I was shot down immediately.

We also do state mandated hearing and vision screenings. In my previous district, I coordinated all these screenings, often did them by myself, and input the results in the computer. Here, they contract hearing screenings to an outside company, so I do none, other than the ones I do for IEPs. We have health clerks that coordinate the vision screenings, and we use SPOT vision screeners, so all I do for vision screenings now is show up, point, and shoot. Clerks record all the results, and send out referral letters for those that don’t pass. Boom, done.

Then there’s the case management stuff I do. Health plans, which are most in the beginning of the year but still come throughout. Following up on kids who need glasses, who aren’t taking medication, etc. It’s what I consider to be the most important role of mine, and also appears to be a last priority. The district gets reimbursed for my time for IEP assessments, money talks, and I don’t make the district any money by ensuring a student gets a much-needed pair of glasses.

In the other slivers of time I find, I might do a little first aid, talk with my co-workers like I actually like them (and some I do) or, you know…Pinterest.