Each morning as my children get ready for school, we turn the TV on to PBS to watch the kid shows. Our favorite is Arthur, a show about third graders (though all the character are animals, including Arthur the aardvark) that tackles real life problems in a very realistic manner, including ear infections, head lice, friendships and yes, peanut allergies.
This morning, the show about peanut allergies, “Binky Goes Nuts,” was aired and it reminded of the first time I saw it, about 2 years ago. Coincidentally, this was a few days before my daughter was to see the allergist and have her tree nut allergy diagnosed. I remember feeling very comforted by this episode, because it addresses many of the questions and concerns that families have about nut allergies. We get to be with Arthur’s friend, Binky Barnes, through his diagnosis, his fears, some major lifestyle adjustments, and some realistic solutions.
Binky is faced with the restrictions that peanut allergies place on someone, and like us, was concerned with what to avoid. In fact, he has a dream where his lunch lady tells him he can’t have certain food because it was cooked by someone whose middle name is “Peanut” and another food because it has eggs in it laid by a chicken who may have had peanut residue in her feed. Then, in his dream, Binky is sent to eat a table with children with allergies, including a child in a special suit because he has a Formica allergy and cannot touch any of the flooring at school. When Binky wakes up, he faces these fears and with the help of his allergist and his mom’s investigative work (Go Mom!!), he is able to teach his friends about his allergy, feel comfortable with it, and even eat his favorite Chinese food at a new restaurant his mom found that doesn’t use peanut oil.
The episode also covers the basics like what is a food allergy and why are peanut allergies so dangerous? It not only is good for those faced with food allergies in their families, but also friends and classmates learn how they can make their school a safe and healthy place for classmates who have peanut or other food allergies.
On www.pbskids.org, you can find some great material to go along with this episode, including a Q&A with Dr. Michael C. young, an esteemed allergist (some great answers are given to some very common questions), thorough information on the basics of food allergy, and good insights to being a good friend of those with food allergies. There are also activities for school (or home) involving the Arthur characters, and all of this is also in Spanish.
This show has received high accolades in promoting food allergy awareness as it is a popular, mainstream show for kids ages preschool thru elementary school. The real life view it takes on peanut allergies can be transferred to other types of food allergies, and the solutions that Binky and his mom learn can be incorporated into real life as well. It’s a great format for getting kids to understand about their allergies, and helping their friends to understand as well.
- Heather Legg