Life Threatening Food Allergies ARE a Disability

Life Threatening Food Allergies ARE a Disability

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Why Cupcakes Should NOT Be Served in the Classroom

There was a recent opinion piece, by Carina Hoskisson, in The Huffington Post titled “Why Do Your Kid’s Allergies Mean My Kid Can’t Have a Birthday?”. This piece has over 200 comments and has caused quite an uproar from those in the food allergy and intolerance community. My plan was to ignore this piece, as some writers are known for deliberately writing controversial posts to garner attention. However, I find it riddled with misinformation and wrapped in a veil of what feels like contempt. So I just had to respond.


All of this started because Ms. Hoskisson’s was concerned that her children can’t have homemade birthday cake to celebrate their birthdays… school.

If you notice, I’ve called this an “opinion piece” and not an article. It’s clear that the piece is one-sided. Ms. Hoskisson didn’t put any effort into contacting parents of children with food allergies to learn why some schools are banning foods in the classroom, nor did she do any sort of research to learn the truth behind why such accommodations are made. Upon further investigation, it appears as though Ms. Hoskisson only has 2 articles published on The Huffington Post. Which again leads me to believe this was potentially a deliberate post, on a controversial topic, to garner attention.

Regardless, the point of this post is to clear up any misinformation caused by Carina Hoskisson and her opinion piece. I won’t go line by line debating her piece as that’s already been done by several other writers in the food allergy and intolerance community. (Links to their posts are at the bottom of this article.) My goal is to set the record straight on why accommodations are made in school for children with life threatening food allergies.

Life Threatening Food Allergies ARE a Disability

Let me repeat that again for those who don’t get it: “Life Threatening Food Allergies ARE a Disability”. They are covered under both Section 504 and The American with Disabilities Act.

My past article 504 Plan – IEP Goals – Special Education Laws covers this. However, for a refresher:

“Section 504 covers qualified students with disabilities who attend schools receiving Federal financial assistance. To be protected under Section 504, a student must be determined to: (1) have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or (2) have a record of such an impairment; or (3) be regarded as having such an impairment.”

Children with Disabilities are Entitled to Accommodations in School

Since life threatening food allergies are considered a disability, individuals with life threatening food allergies are entitled to accommodations in school under FAPE – Free and Appropriate Public Education.

“Students with disabilities may not be excluded from participating in nonacademic services and extracurricular activities on the basis of disability. Persons with disabilities must be provided an opportunity to participate in nonacademic services that is equal to that provided to persons without disabilities. These services may include physical education and recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school, and referrals to agencies that provide assistance to persons with disabilities and employment of students.” ED.GOV

This means that individuals with life threatening food allergies can not be excluded from any classroom celebrations including birthdays.

Not All Food Allergies or Food Allergic Children are the Same

Accommodations are likely to vary from school to school and grade to grade as not all food allergies or food allergic children are the same. Accommodations are determined by the school and sometimes with the help of the parents of the child with the disability. Some schools choose to implement a packaged and labeled food policy 1. for the health and food safety for all children (think foodborne illness) 2. so that teachers can determine if an item is indeed safe via the ingredients. Other schools choose to ban foods for celebrations all together 1. for the health needs of all involved (think obesity epidemic, diabetes, food allergies and intolerances) 2. to be inclusive of and keep those with life threatening food allergies safe.

Celebrate Birthdays at Home

We seem to live in a society where every child gets a medal just for participating and kids seem to think they are special just for being born. School is an environment for learning. It is a place where all kids are supposed to feel safe and included. Let’s celebrate children for their strengths, accomplishments and differences.

Celebrate your child’s birthday at home. Or if you must celebrate at school, do so with a non food treat so that all kids can feel special.

You Might Also Be Interested In

Food Allergies and School: A Guide to Keeping Your Child Safe and Included – an ebook I wrote that covers getting 504 plans and food allergy accommodations in more detail.

I’m So Sorry Our Disease is Such an Inconvenience for You – a great response from GlutenDude on the HuffPost piece.

Your Birthday Cupcakes Are NOT More Important Than My Daughter’s Life – another response to the HuffPost piece by Leila from the blog “Don’t Speak Whinese”.

Inclusion vs. Exclusion in the Food Allergy Debate – an additional response to the HuffPost piece by Beth from The Beth Approach.