In July of 2016, Stephanie and her family made the big move from Canada to Cardiff. For anyone, moving across oceans and time zones is an adjustment but for Stephanie there was another element to consider, her son William’s severe allergies.
Stephanie’s idea of raising awareness of severe allergies and anaphylaxis in schools began when William started school in Cardiff. ‘The allergy game in Canada is completely different, in schools there was training for all staff on how to use Adrenaline Auto Injectors and children are educated about the seriousness of allergies.’ Stephanie felt that when William first started his new school there was a lack of awareness around severe allergies, with William at times being excluded from activities where his allergens may be present. Understanding that education would be the key to improving this, Stephanie sat down with William and asked if he would be happy for her to speak in schools about creating a safer environment for all children with severe allergies. ‘I’m not trying to change the world to adjust to William’s allergies but instead raising awareness and empathy.’
With an idea in place to approach local schools and do a presentation on how everyone can keep those with severe allergies safe, Stephanie approached the Anaphylaxis Campaign with her plan. From here, Stephanie, with the help of the Campaign’s Information Team, developed a PowerPoint which helped create a Schools Allergy Awareness Pack. With the presentation ready, Stephanie started contacting local schools and offered to facilitate an allergy awareness lesson. With four lessons completed and more confirmed Stephanie is well on the way to achieving her goal of educating both children and staff of the seriousness of allergies and anaphylaxis.
Stephanie has come up with creative ways of teaching these subjects and has found materials to be her greatest friend. ‘I realised I needed visual tools to engage the children. I used glitter to highlight cross contamination by getting the children to put it on their hands and then shake each other’s hand to show how allergies can travel and why it is so important to wash your hands’. This great idea along with the PowerPoint and other activities sheets has enabled the children to learn all about allergies and how they can help not only other children who may be affected by these but also their teachers. ‘When there are thirty children in the class a teacher can’t keep an eye on all of them at once, teaching children the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction enables them to notice if their friend is looking unwell and tell the teacher who can help’.
When asked what sort of things she hears a lot, Stephanie said that the children have asked if anyone can have an allergy. Stephanie mentions how referring to celebrities who have allergies is a great answer for this and also shows how it doesn’t have to stop anyone from doing anything, it just means you have to be a bit more careful. When asked if she has seen an impact from her lessons, Stephanie mentioned how William’s best friend, who like William is just six, has been great in telling his parents that they need to know how to use his Adrenaline Auto Injector and when William is round that they should avoid eating anything with his allergens in.
It is clear from talking to Stephanie that her son William has been a great driving force in the fantastic work she has been doing. ‘I am a mum of a child with allergies trying to make the world a bit better for him, allergies are not feared in our house.’ It certainly seems that William thinks his mum is great and has told Stephanie how proud he is of her. Armed with this and an ambition to keep going, Stephanie is keen to not only carry on her work within primary schools but is also hoping to start work on a presentation that can be used in secondary schools.
When asked what she would say to other people who would like to do a similar thing, Stephanie said ‘If I can do it, anyone can. Hearing the words ‘mum I’m proud’ makes the months of work all worthwhile. Even if you go into just one school you are raising awareness of allergies to those who may not know much about them’.
We can’t thank Stephanie enough for all the amazing work she has been doing. Here at the Anaphylaxis Campaign, we think Stephanie is an inspiration and cannot wait to see her continue her fantastic work!