Thursday, January 24, 2013

When Worlds Collide: Introverted Mom/Food-Allergic Kid

I know this is going to seem crazy to a lot of you, but the supermarket deli really stresses me out.

I'm a pretty extreme introvert. I would be very happy puttering around the house by myself and never going to social events at all. For years, I worked a corporate job and found that I had to "gear up" every morning. It isn't that I don't like people. It's just that too much "people" exhausts the heck out of me and confrontation sends me back into my shell like nothing else.

So...back to the deli. We have a great deli at our local supermarket with lots of safe choices for my son. Unfortunately, I cannot remember which choices are safe from visit to visit. I'm also just paranoid enough about all this stuff, having been burned in the past, that I really want to see that label.

There's a line of people three deep at the counter. Thirty-EIGHT...thirty-NINE...FORTY?

I'm forty. "Hi. I'm really sorry about this, but can you please show me the label for the oven-roasted turkey?" Blank stare.

"I have a child with food allergies. I need to see if there is butter or soy in the flavorings." Ok, now he's following. He rifles through the top shelf (always the top), looking for a turkey breast with the label intact. Turns back to me. "Lady, I'm going to have to go in the BACK to get one." Pause.

"Well, is there any kind of turkey right there that does have a label?" He brings me what he says is the honey roasted. Looks great. I tell him to carve it.

When he brings it back, he says "you know this is the smoked, right?" Nope, I didn't. I take it anyway and slink back to my cart.

That's a pretty typical trip to the deli counter for me. I always apologize, always explain, always assume it's a big deal, am always hypersensitive to what I perceive as criticism and annoyance from others, always quick to settle. Who knows if that hypersensitivity has any basis in reality at all? But that's the view I have of the hostile outside world and it makes doing the things I need to do every day to keep my kid safe harder than they probably are for the extrovert mom.

Now that I'm watching my son grow up with many of the same characteristics, I've gotten more curious as to where this stuff all comes from. The answer seems to be: we're born with it. If you, too, recognize yourself in all of this, I highly recommend Susan Cain's book Quiet. It's been a breath of fresh air through my mostly indoor-air world.

Cain makes the point early on that, around the 1910-20s, America went from a culture that valued character to one that values primarily personality. How to Win Friends and Influence People was the name of the game. Shy went from being simply a character trait to being a detriment...and sometimes even a pathology. Shy kids today are pushed, prodded and therapied. Colleges and companies want the socially-involved extrovert.  (As the same time, we're surprised that Americans are so "me" focused, and that our schools pay for programs that teach character...as though character is something to be acquired through mimicry, just like any other social skill.)

Unfortunately, food allergies and introversion are not an easy mix. Over the years, I learned to put on my game face and make the calls to other parents about play dates, or to speak up at the planning sessions for class parties, or to ask the restaurant owner to trot out all the ingredients. But, I often wondered if my child wouldn't have been better off if he had been born into a family with a pushier mom. (And yes — I know not all extroverts are "pushy" — but my crazy mental world likes broad categorizations.)

There are a lot of recommendations in the book for living more easily as an introvert in a world geared mostly to extroverts; so many that I can't summarize here. But I think the first important step for us introverts is acknowledging the mismatch and refusing to own the "shy" label as a negative. I've learned over the years that the outgoing interactions needed to deal with food allergies are hard for me. I've found ways to make it work (including throwing my husband into the ring whenever possible). What I hadn't realized until I read this book is the toll the struggle took on my own self-esteem. For so long, I thought there was something wrong with me, rather than some explainable hard-wired temperament that was simply different than what society (currently) values.

If you, too, are an introvert constantly struggling with being Hard-Nosed Pushy Allergy Mom, I highly recommend the book. In the meantime, cut yourself some slack when you ask the man to cut your deli meat.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Nursing award for GCU Mental Health team




The Glasgow Caledonian University Mental Health team has been recognised for its innovative teaching.

The team won the award for Practice Innovation and Excellence in Mental Health Nursing for the education category of the Mental Health Nursing Forum Scotland Awards.

Lecturer Margaret Caldwell said: “We are delighted to receive this award and were particularly commended by the panel for our service user and practitioner involvement.”

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Call for Coops!


SAGE's coop, where Coop Tour HQ will be once again this year.  Our beautiful coop was donated by a young man from Sweet Home.  Check out his handiwork or contact him for more information at: http://willydwonkacoops.com/


We're on the search for chicken and duck coops for this year's Cooped Up in Corvallis event -- a tour of backyard chicken and duck coops.  This year's coop tour will be on Sunday May 19th (save the date!).  If you or someone you know has a coop they are interested in featuring during this fun and educational event, please contact sage@corvallisenvironmentalcenter.org or 541-753-9211.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kicked to the Curb




illustration by Robert Rendo





(click image to enlarge)











NOTE: Readers, feel free to lift this or any image from this website and use in your own advocacy material as you maintain your fight against corporate reform and privatizing public education. While I hold copyright, I am granting you a free license to use all images on this site, with the only condition that you credit the name "Robert Rendo" for the illustration. Usage includes but is not limited to hardcopy materials, Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Pinterest, blogs, YouTube, websites, newsletters, media presentations for public speaking, and periodicals, etc. Anyone who believes, as Diane Ravitch and others do, in preserving education as a public trust, may use my images FREE. . . everyone from the most off-the-grid vanity blog writers to columnists of major mainstream national publications. It is my sincere hope that we use imagery as one of many strategies to tell about how wrong and misguided the whole reform movement is in public education. 








-Robert Rendo, publisher

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Dear Readers . . .











NOTE TO READERS:

Dear Fellow Educators, Students, and Parents, 

I hope this note finds you well.

I just wanted to drop in to say hello and hope that you are all enjoying, but more importantly, being provoked by the content this website has to offer. 

I also wanted to deliver a friendly reminder, in solidarity, that you are free to lift any image from this website and use in your own advocacy material as you maintain your fight against corporate reform and privatizing public education. While I hold copyright, I am granting you a free license to use all images on this site, with the only condition that you credit the name "Robert Rendo" for the illustration. 

Usage includes but is not limited to hardcopy materials, Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Pinterest, blogs, YouTube, websites, newsletters, media presentations for public speaking, and periodicals, etc. Like Diane Ravitch and literally millions of others nationwide, anyone who believes in preserving education as a public trust may use my images, and they're all FREE.

It is my sincere hope that we use imagery as one of many strategies to tell about how wrong and misguided this whole reform movement is in public education. 

This will indeed be a long battle, but as we stand together, organize, and continue to mobilize, we will prevail in the long run, as we permanently hold one thing in education that privatizers don't: the TRUTH.



Preserving K-12 education as a public trust and funding it resplendently so that ALL children have a first rate, world class education is the birth right of every child in the United States. A critical part of fulfilling these human rights is ensuring that children are not born into poverty, or can get out of it well before they enter kindergarten. The academic success of every child will depend on giant factors, such as his/her socio-economic status, the availability of resources within the school and pedagogical quality (which I do NOT define by test scores!). 

Turning education into a numbers-obsessed factory production game will only further stratify our society. We not only look to protect teaching as a profession, but to guard against turning current and future generations into a sea of test-taking, robotrons who emerge into civic discourse and the work place with little to no creativity and critical thinking. 

Certainly testing has its place, but it cannot drive the narrative of teacher effectiveness, nor should it ever be used to punish, label, or deteriorate the self esteem of children. Tests tell us what children are strong and weak in, not whether we've been adept at teaching them. We are THE only modern industrialized country that now ties teacher worthiness and employability to test scores. With this over simplified and ignorant notion of education, we stand only to dumb down our citizenry rather than empower it. 

But we will continue to fight this injustice. 

The fight begins with state governments and certainly extends to President Obama and the United States Department of Education. 

It is my sincere hope that we together stand undivided and unwavering, as we reclaim the social and cognitive justice we and our children need if we are to maintain a true democracy. 

It is my intention that the images on this site voice such concerns with vim, vigor, passion, and healthy provocation.  

Your feedback (of ANY nature) on this site is always welcome.









Warm Regards,









Robert Rendo, publisher





OPT OUT!





illustration by Robert Rendo

(click image to enlarge)




NOTE: Readers, feel free to lift any image from this website and use in your own advocacy material as you maintain your fight against corporate reform and privatizing public education. While I hold copyright, I am granting you a free license to use all images on this site, with the only condition that you credit the name "Robert Rendo" for the illustration. Usage includes but is not limited to hardcopy materials, Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Pinterest, blogs, YouTube, websites, newsletters, media presentations for public speaking, and periodicals, etc. Anyone who believes, as Diane Ravitch and others do, in preserving education as a public trust, may use my images FREE. . . everyone from the most off-the-grid vanity blog writers to columnists of major mainstream national publications. It is my sincere hope that we use imagery as one of many strategies to tell about how wrong and misguided the whole reform movement is in public education. 


-Robert Rendo, publisher



Friday, January 18, 2013

The First Big SLIT Trial Just Ended...

...and the results are...interesting.

For those of you who are not obsessed with the current smorgasbord of clinical trials underway, SLIT stands for sub-lingual immunotherapy. The therapy has been used successfully in Europe for many years to treat environmental allergies. It's been used more sporadically and with less certain results to treat food allergies. I know of at least one clinic in the United States that has been administering SLIT for several decades.

The question has been...does it really work? Other trials have shown mixed results. (I wrote an article on this back in July if you're really interested.) This most recent study was a more comprehensive approach involving 40 kids, sponsored by the National Institute of Health and held at several locations.

Kids who participated were given either placebo or drops containing peanut protein. About a third of the kids in the peanut drop group experienced an itchy mouth or throat, but only a few had symptoms more severe than that. (However, one subject did have an anaphylaxic event after a dose at home and ended up dropping out of the study.) At the end of the 44 weeks, the kids who suffered through dose after dose of saline for nothing got to choose whether to participate in an accelerated higher-dose SLIT experiment over the next 24 weeks. Kids in the first peanut group just continued with their slower build-up.

The kids varied a lot with regard to how much peanut they could tolerate at the outset. For some kids, the first symptom occurred at just 6 mg. Keep in mind that a peanut is about 300 mg, so this means these kids could detect 1/50th of a peanut. However, the actual dose they consumed before having a objectively-confirmable reaction was as high as 196 mg, or 2/3rds of a peanut.

So what was interesting about it?

It worked...kind of. Of the kids in the original peanut group, 14 out of 20 were able to consume 10x the amount of peanut after SLIT as they did before. The problem was that many of these kids did not get up to a very high dose at the start, so 10x the amount of peanut was still not very much peanut. The median dose they achieved at the midpoint of the study was 496 mg (about 1 2/3 peanuts). At the end of the 68 weeks, the median was 996 mg, or just over three peanuts. This is definitely some significant wiggle room with regard to cross-contamination, but it's clearly not full desensitization, at least for most kids.

The kids who got the shorter course of peanut drops after placebo did almost as well. There were seven "responders" out of 16 in this group (some people dropped out along the way for various reasons, including fear of more challenges and even pregnancy!). The median amount they could eat after just 20 weeks of SLIT was that magical 496 mg number.

The amount of time SLIT was given did make a difference in a few cases. The study goal for desensitization was 5 whole GRAMS of peanut (5000 mg). During the 44-week challenge, no one made it to full desensitization. However, after 68 weeks, three of the kids were able to consume 5 grams (16 peanuts), and one ate 10 grams (32 peanuts).



Peanut-specific IgE levels didn't go down. The kids who got the peanut saw their IgE levels go up at the beginning of the dosing, then back down toward the end. However, in the end, the level of IgE ended up at about the same point as when they started and wasn't any different from the placebo group.

However, there was a noticeable difference in IgG4 levels: in the peanut kids, they went up much more than with the placebo group. Just as with good and bad cholesterol, it may be that a change in the "good" number (IgG4) is a more important marker of tolerance than the "bad" (IgE) number. Skin tests also changed significantly for the peanut kids. Bottom line is that IgE doesn't really seem to be telling us much with regard to development of tolerance.

Spontaneous tolerance DOES occur. Here was the weirdest part of the study for me: two kids in the placebo group  were actually able to pass the 16-peanut challenge at the end without any real therapy. Keep in mind that these were kids who had already failed a challenge just a few months before (one got just hives and itching; the other got hives, plus felt sick).

The study authors just kind of shrugged about this one and said "hey, we really don't know how this all works and maybe even older kids, or kids whose IgE isn't all that low, can spontaneously develop tolerance." One of the kids saw a decrease in IgE/increase in IgG4; the other saw an increase in IgE and a decrease in IgG4. No help there!

So what changed? Maybe the time in the year the kids were tested made a difference. They were both teen boys, so maybe testosterone kicked in and suppressed inflammation. Whatever the reason, both kids are now openly eating peanut.

So...if you're anything like me, you found the information about SLIT interesting and the information about the kids who got placebo and passed anyway INTERESTING! You can tell when you read the study that those kids really mucked up the nice, neat results. Sometimes, though, it's the thing that you're not looking for that ends up being the most important part of a research study.

If you'd like to read the whole complicated study for yourself, you'll find it here.


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