Food Allergy Counseling

Food Allergy Counseling
Sloane Miller, MFA, MSW, LMSW, Psychotherapist; Specialist in Food Allergy Management, Speaking At Mylan Specialty / EpiPen Event (© Noel Malcolm 2013)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Allergic Girl Interview: Morgan Smith, Author of Morgan's New Corner Blog

I met Morgan Smith a few years ago when we were both presenting at the then FAAN (now FARE) conference in Chicago, IL. His mom, Nicole of Allergicchild.com and I had known of one another for years through the blogosphere so it was an extra special treat to meet the child of the Allergicchild.com website. Morgan was an excellent speaker and all around cool hang.

I was thrilled to hear about his new blog, morgansnewcorner.com and e-book series and have a chance to interview him about what he’s been up to lately.

Also check out the special he's offered to Allergic Girl readers: Using the coupon code “allergicgirl” (all one word) on checkout, you can get 50% off your order of Morgan’s new e-book bundle through the rest of May, 2016. (Which means three e-books for $5!).


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At the FARE conference in Chicago, when I was a mini (still am) and Morgan was in braces.

Allergic Girl: OMG, Morgan?! You’re 20 years old and at college now. When we met, I think you were 15 or 16. So tell me, what fun classes, clubs and/or activities are you doing this year at college?

Morgan Smith: I know it’s been a while!! Thank you for this interview! College is absolutely fantastic. I’m attending the University of Denver (DU), majoring in Public Policy and Economics, so most of the classes I’m taking has to do with those topic areas. I’m actually in this Government Simulation class where we simulate the real US House of Representatives – right up my alley! It’s great. I’m also involved in DU’s Leadership Program and Honors Program, as well as a club I founded called Roosevelt @ DU, which is a chapter of a nationally networked think tank called the Roosevelt Institute. Basically, I work with government officials and community leaders to get young people involved in the political process, from a city to an international level. I also definitely go on spontaneous trips downtown with friends most weeks – I hope that counts as an activity!

AG: Yes! Hanging with friends is one of the best activities! So, how did you imagine college would be and how is it the same or different now that you are halfway through?

MS: It’s definitely a lot more social than I expected. When you live with people that become your best friends, you just hang out with them all the time! Unlike in high school where you most likely have to drive to your friend’s house, I just have to walk two doors down and there they are. It makes for incredible bonding experiences and a lot of spontaneous adventures. DU has a two year on-campus housing requirement so I really have only had the dorm life experience so far! 

Academically, I can definitely say that it’s challenging and engaging. It’s a lot more reading and writing than I thought, but I’m majoring in the social sciences; hard sciences and math majors aren’t usually writing long papers, so it’s mainly my majors that are determining that workload. It’s an absolute blast.  

AG: Do you have any non-food allergy advice for teens heading off to college next fall?

MS: Find your favorite spot to study – that’s my main advice. For me, it changes by term so sometimes I’ll really enjoy studying in the library, other terms I’ll enjoy studying in my room. This past term I’ve actually really enjoyed studying off-campus. Simply, if you can find your favorite spot to study, you can be productive for hours on end and feel like you’ve really accomplished a lot by the end. Over time, it also reinforces the idea that when you go to that spot, you’re going to start studying and you can automatically become more productive and engaged.


Check out Morgan’s new e-book bundle which addresses growing up with food allergies, traveling and college. 


AG: That’s super smart advice about finding your spot! How will you be spending your summer?

MS: I will be living at home in Colorado Springs, but I have a part-time internship at our local City Council! I’ll also be preparing for study abroad in the fall, which will, in all honesty, take up more time than my internship. My abroad experience has three parts: traveling with friends, an independent research project in Denmark, and then my actual study abroad experience at a host university in England. Each part has its own things to plan (getting itineraries together for backpacking, registering for classes at my host university, etc.) and I definitely will be doing a lot of research about food labeling laws and best practices in each of the countries that I will be visiting. 

On top of that, I definitely hope to find myself camping with friends a couple weekends and attending a few concerts!    

AG: Fun! So, tell me about your new blog launch?

MS: My new blog – Morgan’s New Corner – is a new space for me to share my experiences about living with food allergies. It’s modeled after a column I wrote for 8 years in AllergicChild.com’s monthly newsletter (which is run by my mom) where I talked about everything: bullying, allergic reactions, growing up, making friends, transitioning to middle and high school, going to tournaments, dating, traveling to conferences, advocating for myself, preparing for college and so on. My new blog is going to cover all of that and more – college life, traveling internationally, and the list goes on!

I want to share all of these experiences with both parents and teens with food allergies so that they can see that anything is really possible even with food allergies. A lot of times, I hear parents (and even teens) worried that food allergies will prohibit activities like traveling across the country or even hanging out with friends on a normal basis. I’m working to show that it is possible and my blog is my space to share that.

AG: So, how is your blog different from other food allergy blogs written by teens?

MS: I think that every teen has a perspective to provide. I always focus on self-advocacy: empowering teens with food allergies to advocate for themselves. My experience reflects a lot of that, especially in my transition to college: I was the one scheduling meetings with the dining hall and Disability Services to make sure that my college experience was safe and possible. Of course, that’s not to say other teens don’t write about self-advocacy! Simply, I’m here as a pretty average college student who has been sharing his life since the age of 9 and what it’s like to grow up with and live with food allergies.  

AG: You write on your blog website: I believe that every child with food allergies can have a normal life. Briefly, how do you engage the world so you can achieve that normal life”?

MS: I advocate for myself! I never settle for an unsafe situation or one in which I’m uncomfortable with. If someone is sitting next to me messily eating almonds, I’m going to explain to them that I’m allergic to tree nuts and that I’d deeply appreciate it if they stopped eating them for a little while, or at least perhaps in a cleaner manner. This goes for friends and strangers in all situations. There are also times in which it’s a lot easier to move away (like in an auditorium) than to raise a fuss, and I definitely opt for that too sometimes. 

Also, I prepare a lot. I talk about this in some of my writing and e-books that the best way to have a fantastic experience while traveling or at college is to put in the work up front to prepare for everything instead of jumping in blindly. That way, you know you have safe meals or restaurants to eat at, a safe hotel to stay in, etc..



AG: Haha! I always say that: “I can totally be spontaneous, with a lot of planning!” Morgan, you're also an Eagle Scout. What lessons have you learned from Scouts that apply to your life in general? And those that apply to life with food allergies?

MS: An excellent question! I think Scouting was a foundation to a lot of my leadership and self-advocacy skills. The Scout Law (“A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent”) serves as a great guide for interactions with other people, especially with food allergies. Not everyone is going to understand the severity of food allergies or the consequences of cross contact immediately; being friendly and patient with them as they learn is important!

I also think my Eagle Project was a pinnacle of my development. To attain the rank of Eagle Scout, I had to organize and execute a community service project. Never one to settle for the easy route, I decided I wanted to rebuild a local footbridge in my community. I had to raise $5,000, organize 50+ volunteers, get materials, etc.. It was an incredible experience and I think that has shaped a lot of my passion surrounding community change in the political realm: when communities get together to work on issues that directly affect them, a lot of great stuff can happen. This applies to the food allergy community as well.  

AG: Such a cool Eagle project on so many levels. What are your top three tips for teens who want to learn how to advocate for their needs?

MS: One: Tell other people about your food allergies. This is the most important step! Having a safe environment relies on other people being aware that you have food allergies. I know it can seem inconvenient or even unnecessary to share about your food allergies with your friends, but you should tell them and train them on how to use your epinephrine auto-injector. Plus, your friends can be your support structure and always be there to help you. 

Two: Talk with your parents about letting you take control. This is a gradual process and your parents are always going to want to protect you, meaning they will take charge in a situation. If you want to advocate for your needs at your school, with your friends, and with other adults, you should talk with your parents about how they can help you better advocate for yourself. That shifts more responsibility to you, but it also empowers you.

Three: Always carry your epinephrine auto-injector. I know it can be a pain or it doesn’t “look cool,” but you must have the right medication on you at all times to assure that, if something does go wrong, you can take care of yourself.  

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Morgan, great tips all and so cool to hear about how you are enjoying college and getting so much out of your experience!  You can find more about Morgan here at Morgan’s New Corner (morgansnewcorner.com) or feel free to e-mail him at morgan@allergicchild.com




And remember, the special he's offered to Allergic Girl readers: 


Using the coupon code “allergicgirl” (all one word) on checkout, you can get 50% off your order of Morgan’s new e-book bundle through the rest of May, 2016. Which means three e-books for $5!

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