Food Allergy Action Hero
Author and Owner of AllergicChild.com
Nicole Smith has created a series of children’s books focusing on the topic of food allergies. Books include Allie the Allergic Elephant: A Children's Story of Peanut Allergies, Cody the Allergic Cow: A Children's Story of Milk Allergies and Chad the Allergic Chipmunk: A Children's Story of Nut Allergies.
Nicole’s website, www.AllergicChild.com provides an abundance of information on the topic of children with food allergies. Allergy Free Table was excited to have the opportunity to talk to Nicole about her experience.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Often people have had personal experience that has driven them to take action to help others, what was your personal experience that resulted in where you are today?
NICOLE SMITH: When my son, Morgan, started in preschool in 1999 I looked around for books to take to his school and found none. FAAN did not have any yet and there were not any to be found elsewhere. I thought of an idea for a book. A teenage neighbor of mine was an illustrator so we created a book and sent it preschool with my son. One thing led to the next. Some people suggested publishing so I self published since the book was for such a niche market. Soon there was an article about the book in a local newspaper which was part of a consortium of 30 newspapers. The article ran across the US and Canada and led to the sales of 300 books which led to the development of our website. One thing led to the next and by the end of 1999 we had a website and began providing information and educational resources about food allergy.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Your passion to help children who have food allergies led to the creation of AllergicChild.com with an ongoing commentary of real life experiences from your son who has food allergies. Would you share with us how it has affected both your life and your son’s?
NICOLE SMITH: Morgan loves to stand up in front of people talking as well as being on the computer, writing and using Power Point. He naturally fell into this role. He created a Power Point presentation in 3rd grade which was used again and again to train his peers about his food allergies. We also included him, since Kindergarten, in the 504 planning meetings. We would ask him how things were going, what he wanted to keep, what should change. It empowered him. As he got older he was one of the older kids who had food allergies and wanted to help the younger children. We do a lot of community service in our family so this was another way of providing community service.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Many people credit you with being a leader in providing children’s story books that focus on food allergy education through storytelling. What was your favorite story to write and where did the inspiration come from?
NICOLE SMITH: Probably the first book, “Allie the Allergic Elephant: A Children’s Story of Peanut Allergies,” was the most favorite of mine. The inspiration came from a need. My son, Morgan, was going to school and there was not a lot of understanding about food allergies. We went to many preschools to try to enroll him and they said either we will call you to administer the EpiPen or we cannot afford the liability of your child attending. Finally there was one school who would work with us and it dawned on me that there was a great need for education. I asked myself ‘How can we educate, let’s write a book’. The inspiration went beyond children’s books to let’s educate everyone.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: Before food allergies were a part of your life did you have a career? If so, tell us about it.
NICOLE SMITH: I did, I worked in various financial areas. I graduated from college with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration and a major in Finance. I worked in banking and the mortgage loan industry. My last job was in actuarial studies for Progressive Insurance as a pricing analyst. I feel now my calling is with the food allergy world. There is nothing like the experience of a parent who has been there.
ALLERGY FREE TABLE: What is your number one most important advice for both parents and teachers of children with food allergies?
NICOLE SMITH: Educate yourself to know everything possible about food allergies, allergic reactions, and EpiPen training. Know what to do in case of emergency and better yet have enough awareness to not have an emergency situation. This is my mantra. We want everyone to have accommodations in place so there will not be a need for the EpiPen for a reaction that could have been prevented.