My name is Alla and I live in New Haven, CT. I am a preschool special education teacher. When I am not working, I love to travel and read.
Journey to Diagnosis
My whole life I struggled with stomach issues. I tried everything and was told it was just because of my anxiety. When I was student teaching I was extremely distended and got bigger throughout the day, could not go to the bathroom, and would get waves of stabbing pain. One time it got so bad I had to go to the ER. About a year later, I was diagnosed with celiac disease.
I had just finished college and was starting grad school. The entire process of getting diagnosed was long and complicated. First, I saw a doctor who was not well-educated on celiac disease. She had told me to go gluten-free and to Google it. I did not know the impact of cutting out gluten before my endoscopy and she did not either.* I asked her if I should and she told me if it makes me feel better I should cut out gluten.
Despite my visit to the ER six months earlier, my doctor struggled to find answers or to find an opening for an appointment with a specialist. I took matters into my own hands but made many, many mistakes along the way. Eventually I was able to find a good doctor and work on making my body healthy.
* Patients should not cut out gluten before getting tested or getting an endoscopy, as it can cause incorrect results.
Advocating in the Education System
I was so fortunate to get my diagnosis when I was living off-campus and could cook for myself. As a teacher I see firsthand how advocacy is the most important thing to get what you need. I see the lack of education among teachers, administrators, school staff and other students when it comes to celiac disease. My goal is to raise awareness about celiac disease in the education system.
Before being diagnosed with celiac disease, I had no clue if a child in my classroom had it. I can only imagine the isolation the child would feel if they had not only a teacher uneducated on the disease but also an entire school system unprepared or unaware. Nowadays, every teacher understands peanut allergies, but that may not have been true 10 years ago.
It is important to understand where there may be possibilities for accidental cross-contact in the classroom. For example, did you know Play-Doh has gluten in it? Not every kid eats Play-Doh, but think of what they touch or put in their mouth AFTER touching it.
I am looking forward to advocating for all schools to be safe for children with celiac disease while providing teachers with knowledge without making them work them harder than they already are (since it’s way more than contractual)!