In our May 24, 2017 webinar, “From Sleepovers to College: Coaching your Food-Allergic Child to Independence,” Denise Bunning traces her family’s food allergy journey and her sons’ food allergy travels. This upbeat presentation offers helpful tips for parents of children with food allergies, showing how the skills mastered on an overnight class trip to the state capitol can lay the groundwork for a summer spent safely in China.
Denise Bunning is an educator, advocate, and member of the FARE Board of Directors. A co-creator and leader of the support group, MOCHA (Mothers of Children Having Allergies), she also co-founded the first food allergy walk, held in Chicago in 2004.
The Bunnings have two sons. Bryan, age 23, has asthma and life-threatening allergies to tree nuts. Daniel, age 20, has life-threatening allergies to milk, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. He also has eosinophilic esophagitis, a digestive disorder related to food allergies, which has required a gastric tube for much of Daniel’s nourishment.
Denise believes that food allergies shouldn’t limit a child’s opportunities for memorable experiences. As the webinar follows Bryan and Daniel through childhood, adolescence, college and beyond, a consistent theme emerges:
Preparing means doing your homework beforehand to find food options that are safe. This can involve gathering information through internet searches and phone calls, or even shipping safe food to your destination in advance. Next, summarize those preparations into a detailed, written plan. Supplement the plan with alternatives, such as extra money and safe snacks, in case part of the plan derails. With a robust plan in place, it’s now time to proceed.
To arrive at independence, kids need education, experience and expertise. Learning to cook is invaluable because being able to feed yourself safely is empowering. Also essential is learning to be your own advocate. Denise offers perspectives from her older son Bryan and his girlfriend on how to approach the topic of food allergy while dating.
An extended Q&A session at the end of the webinar gives further advice on dating, plus help on additional topics, such as carrying (and misplacing) epinephrine, overnight camping, alcohol and more.