A Child with Food Allergies

Untitled by Roman F, 2012. Pastel on Fabriano paper, 24" x 36"

Untitled by Roman F, 2012. Pastel on Fabriano paper, 24″ x 36″

Food Allergies, Repugnance is the opening line of a ten-year-old boy’s poem about how he feels living with food allergies. When I work with young children, I hand out a list of various emotions as a tool to simplify the Bodyscapes Program. On this day, before I realized I handed out the list used for high school workshops, I heard my client proclaim, “Oh yeah! Irked, I don’t really know what the word means. But I am taking it for my word list. Definitely.” Moments later, he declared the same about the word, repugnance.  When we looked up each word in the dictionary, he was quite happy to learn that the meaning of irked and repugnance matched his feelings about his food allergies. He was also quite interested to look up, irked and repugnance, in the thesaurus. As we followed synonyms for both words in the thesaurus, he muttered statements. “Oh baby, that’s it” or “Yup, I have that symptom.” We had a poem soon. 

Allergies an Unpleasant Reaction by Roman F, 2013

Food allergies, repugnance.
The allergies make me tired.
They are annoying.
I feel fatigued when my allergies act up.
Nervous and exhausted.
That’s what my body feels like when I eat dairy and eggs.

Roman approached drawing with the same easy and immediate response. “I want to draw just the outside of my body from like the neck down to the belly. ‘Cuz that’s where the allergies are.” After a bit of drawing instruction, Roman and I drew the simple silhouette of a neck and torso. Immediately, he picked out colors. “the beige color is the croissant I eat and I am happy. The blue colros are for when I do not feel so well after the croissant. My art teacher taught us that artists choose colors to represent their feelings.”  Roman worked in silence until he said, “It’s finished. Want me to explain it to you?  I know you like to ask the kids what their drawings mean and how the colors match the words in their poem.”  I smiled, knowing I love my work.  “What does each color represent?” I asked.

“Well, the unpleasant reactions are the dark colors when my body parts feel the worst.  The repugnance is definitely dark green. My tiredness, that’s the reds, corals and magenta. When I am upset, that’s the grey blue and the bronze. For nervous, I chose the light brown. But, exhausted, that’s the  red, coral and magenta again.”

When asked which part of the drawing he was most proud, he said he liked the sky blue. “Cuz, the neck is the one part of me that does not hurt when I eat. ” When asked, what he would do over, he responded, “I would change the bronze. I would make it darker because that’s where it hurts the most.”

The Red & Orange House relies on support from individual donors to maintain our work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Each gift brings another art-making experience to a patient’s bedside or their family while sitting in the family surgical waiting room. Donor benefits include a weekly subscription to our upcoming newsletter. You can share in the powerful healing moments experienced by program participants and their families. 

The Red & Orange House is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; all gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. 


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