Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Question-air freshener-remember the word allergy

Here is a reader question...

How are you able to deal with air fresheners and smells at school? We think our son reacts to those things and only put together the connection after a full semester of daily air freshener and decreasing self-control and behavior last spring.

This year, we're trying to be pro-active, but I just don't know how to deal with the smells. Is it a simple, "My son is allergic to air fresheners." Or do you go into a long explanation about why.


Dear Sara,
I use the word "allergy" a lot! It is not to be deceptive at all. It's just that people don't usually understand the word sensitivity. A sensitivity usually implies that the kids is sensitive and the parents are loony. People understand the word allergy to mean that he can not have it-which is the truth. In Andrew's case it is easier because he also has asthmatic reactions with fragrances. There is a physical symptom that people can see.
Normally I would just say plain and simply, My son can not be in a room with air freshener or any artificial fragrance including perfumes or candles. Then if you need to elaborate later you may. If the teacher is not complying, ask for a 504 plan. As I understand it, most schools would love to accommodate you if possible before needing to get a 504 because 504s means more paperwork for them but no extra funding. Ask them if they will be able to accommodate your needs or if you will need a 504 in order to make it happen.
We still have smells, other people's hand sanitizer (my kids bring their own) is probably the biggest smell left. Mrs. B is great to prop open the door as much as possible though so it's not as bad as it was. The clorox while wiping down the lunch tables, but they try to leave a bit early so they don't have an empty table next to them. The math teacher hasn't taken out her candle yet and I think she melts it when he's not there because there's still a smell in the room. It's just been for the last few weeks and coincidentally Andrew has been leaving the room halfway during math to use the restroom and he told me that his tummy hurts in math. He loves math and does very well so I can believe him on that one. I'm thinking it's the smell. I have had to run to the restroom many times while on the detergent aisle at the store. I wonder if anyone else gets the queezies when near chemicals.
Now you could say that right? If you continue to use air fresheners around my son he'll poop on your floor. Ha ha ha.


Mom's Sewing Vault said...

I've always been kind of queasy around some fragrances, exhaust, tires, etc. Interesting that they're all petroleum derived, eh? Since my last pregnancy 3 years ago, I've got full-blown chemical sensitivity. Fragrance of any kind is one of my worst poisons. I used to just get a stomach ache and head ache, then it progressed into brain fog. But the last year or so, I've developed ANGER for 24 hours on top of those other symptoms. If I'm lucky enough to become self aware that the anger is a symptom, and my family are not being complete and total jerks just to yank my chain, the only thing I can do is to keep myself apart until I calm down. It's crazy, really. I call it an allergy, because to explain all that to people who are skeptical to begin with just makes them believe I'm making it up. I might not believe it if it weren't happening to me. ;) Chemical sensitivity is real, and can be debilitating. Gentle, kind assertiveness is the best course of action, in my opinion. Best wishes with your son! sally

Kathy said...

I have been known to secretly blow at candles at friend's hosues during playdates.

My son reacts to them too. I say that they bother them and most people assume that it is asthma related.

It amazes me all the fragances EVERYWHERE!!

Sara said...

Thanks - I agree about the sensitivity thing and equating that to mean that the parents are looney!

Actually using the word allergy is a better option. But being allergic to smells is something that, until recently, I thought was looney, too. :)

We talked to our son's teacher a couple of weeks ago and asked her to try to take note of his behavior in relation to smells and other outside influences - she seemed really concerned and receptive. It was a great conversation.

Good luck with your math teacher!