Last semester, I had a very panicked experience in the lab, and I can’t be prouder of what has come from that. In my spring semester, I am taking Bio and Chem with the same teaching team as before, and with my advocacy last semester, there have been great improvements in how allergies are handled in the class.
Earlier this semester, our bio labs were going to dissect sea creatures for two weeks. When they added the lab handouts to the Canvas site for the course, they mentioned in class and on the website “please email the TA if you are allergic to any shellfish or fish so we can work out an alternative for you”. Hearing and seeing that statement meant so much to me as an allergic teen because I know that they learned from their experience with me and the seed lab last semester. Their willingness to address food allergies upfront gave me time to talk with my TA about my allergies and created an environment where my safety was valued.
Since I am only allergic to shellfish and we were assigned a sea star and an anemone, I was perfectly safe dissecting the specimen originally assigned to our group. In addition to the typical lab protocol of wearing gloves, I was sure to wear pants that had pockets big enough for my epipen just in case. Now that the lab is over, I have learned a lot more about the circulatory, digestive, and gas exchange systems in starfish, and I was able to feel safe and supported in my science classroom. I can only hope that my future teachers will be willing to address allergies before labs as they have been so far this semester.