Seeking Transparency through the Complexities of a Corn Allergy.

What’s in a LABEL?

What’s in a LABEL?

There is so much more to a ‘label’ than understanding a list of ingredients contained in a package. SO MUCH! A label, similar to a diagnosis, can also be given to a person to define a set of symptoms. It is affixed on to something to describe ‘what is inside’. A label is a belief system in the making. It carries a stigma. It begins to mold you and create your identity. It is used by one’s self to identify with what is on the inside. It tells your story. It is used by others to categorize you. These labels are identity thieves. Potentially squashing the essence of an individual. Giving name to ‘symptoms’ and compartmentalizing the whole.

The circumstance and mental capacity necessary to write this post has been a long time in the making! Three years ago, I had no idea what road I was about to walk with my daughter Autumn, as we entered into the pitch black world of discovering she has a corn allergy. And even as I sit to type this, I can’t believe the landscape of this mess has FINALLY changed.

My head aches as I continue to adjust and really settle in to a new norm. I want to cry in relief for the first time as I am allowing myself to accept the utter chaos and doubt and resistance we just came through. The knowledge and truths I have come to accept as critical in our new way of living, as we move forward through a completely dysfunctional food system. Knowing my life as it relates to food, has had such an enormous ripple effect, that it is forever changed.

Autumn’s health drastically changed on the second day of First Grade, when she first became symptomatic and reactive for unknown reasons. At this point, obviously, I didn’t really know my child as a student. Her classroom and academic life had barely just begun. And quickly, it went a little something like this… absences, tardiness, fatigue, unfocused, distracted, needing small ‘pull out’ groups for more specific instruction, lack of engagement, behind in reading and math… Get the idea?

Even with all of this, for 2 years, Autumn’s academics were pretty low on the list of things that needing tending to. We were in high survival mode!! Big time! With her symptoms morphing and changing, the landscape of her health on a steady decline, all while having no idea what was really wrong with her, reading and math had to wait!

Autumn’s academic and health files grew simultaneously. At school, the need for intervention, small group help, suggestions of testing for learning disabilities and needing support from the guidance office coincided with traditional western medicine doctor visits, homeopathic visits, acupuncture, myofascial release to help with the sharp nerve and body pains, her naturopath and allergist. My daughters life was utter CHAOS.

I’d like to fast forward the story to one year ago. The beginning of 3rd grade. Two years in to the corn allergy. We had a fairly decent handle on her diet (although living amongst split parents can still make that challenging), her body was beginning to heal, her energy was coming back, her clarity was visible, she was settling into herSELF. After 2 years of being constantly behind in her academics, I had high hopes for 3rd grade.

The one thing I was neglecting to take into account, however, was the healing process… and all that entails. Autumn was feeling better. Her mind was sharper. Her stamina was increasing. Yes! All of this was true. But she was STILL healing and finding her new norm. All while getting a grasp on what it means to be a student, while having essentially ‘missed’ her first 2 years of school. The balance of catching up, keeping up and continuing to heal was taking a new toll.

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As a parent, watching your kid struggle is no picnic. Having to help her navigate HUGE life lessons at 8 or 9 years old, calls for fine-tuned, conscious parenting skills on overdrive. I was at a point where I was praying for back-up. I needed strength from ‘somewhere’ to help me with the second guessing of my decisions and plan of action. Although we had the physical health aspect moving in the right direction, the ripple effect of the last couple of years had now clearly left its mark in her academic life. It was time to clean that up… And I often wondered if that was possible.

I was hoping her school would be my back up. I was hopeful her teachers had heard this old familiar tune. I was sure I couldn’t be the only parent in this mess. I was certain this would be familiar territory for school administration. I WAS SOOOOO WRONG!! Parent Teacher conferences left me in a bigger pool of self doubt. A clear understanding of where she ‘ranked’ amongst her peers was disheartening. Hearing the suggestion of testing for learning disabilities made me MAD. Watching her lack of engagement with reading and school was tough to take.

During this time, I was constantly checking in with Autumn to best understand her view on the situation. Was it the content, the school, her teacher? Was it really a struggle or was she just not interested? What did she enjoy about school? If I was going to continue to go to bat on her behalf with the principal and teachers, I needed a solid understanding of where SHE was.

I say that, because all I was hearing from the school was, test her. Test her! They wanted to TEST her??? Was I the only one seeing a direct correlation to her health history and her academic life? How is it possible that in talking with a PRINCIPAL of an elementary school, she did not see this connection? How was it possible that in 3 years of tracking Autumn’s progress as a student, no where in that thick file of paperwork did it mention her being sick? Why was it not in her academic file that she has a severe sensitivity to corn? Why is it easier for the school to test her, diagnose her with a learning disability, and only after obtaining a diagnosis she could meet the qualifications for academic assistance. They wanted to give her a label, based on data and scores. Not even taking her health history into consideration.

There was NO WAY, I was about to have Autumn evaluated and tested for a processing disorder or learning disability after 2 solid years of being sick, navigating a horrid food system, living in survival mode, not knowing who to trust when it comes to food safety, feeling like she doesn’t fit in and conflicted with her social life because of it. Even if she did have a learning disability, there was no way I was about to subject Autumn to more testing, to be given a label, and to be told yet again ‘what is WRONG with her’! There is nothing wrong with HER! Because our tainted food supply consists of so many untested and unlabeled toxic chemicals, suddenly my sick kid, needs the test and the label to fit into this *$&%’ed up system?? I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Labels, labels, labels….. As individuals we are quick to label, compartmentalize, diagnosis, test, find out ‘what’s wrong’. I was adamant to explore what was RIGHT with this situation. For a change in this mess, I was pulling my trump Mother Card and standing my ground to search the avenues that WERE working. Like the online recipe book she is making, full of healthy foods she can eat. Like her energy that has increased so much she is able to participate in our local Girls On The Run program where she will complete a 5k. And the skills she has developed in the kitchen. Her keen eye and understanding for deciphering convoluted food labels. Or celebrating the fact that she is able to clearly articulate her needs that will set her up for success.P1010525

Had we gone down the learning disability road, it would have been a grave mistake. It would have taken any ounce of self esteem she was working so hard to maintain, and threw it to the curb. Autumn does not have a learning disability or a processing disorder. However, she did need time and rest and acceptance of an entirely new lifestyle to be able to fully step into her academic career.

Last year, Autumn did not move up one reading level all year. Not one. That was difficult for me to witness and observe without getting sucked into the ‘what’s wrong’ mentality. My gut and intuition reassured me time and again, even when my brain wanted answers. I kept hearing, ‘she is healing, let her be’. During a meeting with her teachers last year, I had made it clear, that although I didn’t know what trajectory Autumn was on, it certainly wouldn’t follow the standard reading levels of A-Z. Over a summer of rest and reorganization, something has happened. The differences in Autumn’s academic capabilities allows me to exhale… deeply. She has clearly accepted and STEPPED IN to her academic life as a 4th grader. It is different. Eating a diet that supports her system, rather than one that poisons it has made radical differences in every aspect of her life.

I can finally write this post because I am CERTAIN, we are out of the woods. All inclusively. Health, academics and overall lifestyle. The unlabeled chemicals that are in our food literally terrorized my daughters body and wreaked havoc on our life. Now (and that is a VERY recent now) I can say this nightmare is a gift. It has allowed me to clean up our diet, understand the wrongdoings of our fragile food supply, see the overlap and correlation that can exist between learning disabilities and adverse reactions to food. It has helped me find my voice. It has allowed me to better understand, “WHAT’S EXACTLY IN THAT LABEL”?images

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