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A young second grader, Devon Carrow, from West Seneca, NY suffers from life threatening allergies that keep him from being able to physically attend school. Devon is allergic to peanuts, dairy, eggs and other food products. His nut allergy is so severe that even if his school banned all products containing nuts, he could still be at risk for anaphylactic shock. Something as little as a fellow student eating a peanut butter sandwich and breathing on Devon after eating it could be fatal. So how does Devon attend school and interact with his teacher and classmates? A robot.
Little 7 year old Devon attends school via a 4-foot tall, remote controlled robot called VGo. Before Devon was able to attend school through VGo, the local school district provided him with a tutor for an hour a day, but this didn’t allow Devon to interact with his peers. Now that he can remotely attend school, Devon’s mom says he gets to spend more time in class and he can actually interact with his peers. Devon spends school hours in his bedroom at his house while his face is transmitted to a screen that sits atop VGo. Teachers can ask him questions, he can raise his hand and occasionally shares a joke with his class. Between classes, Devon can navigate VGo through the hallways where he greets his friends on the way to his next class. He turns the robot off during lunch and gym class and occasionally when the wireless internet connection goes down.
Devon says that his favorite thing about school is math class because he very much enjoys doing multiplication and gets excited when news of new math homework hits. Devon is aided by a teacher’s assistant who sits with him during school hours in order to provide him with one-on-one attention when needed. His older brother picks up Devon’s homework after school and brings completed work back the next day.
The allergies that complicate Devon’s life have shifted over time. He can now enjoy soy products after previously being allergic to them, but now has to give up dairy products due to a bad reaction. Doctors say that at his young age of 7, children have the highest incidents of allergies because their immune systems are still developing, which means that some children can develop dangerous reactions to food they were never allergic to before. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for Devon to take on normal activities, like visiting friends and having sleepovers, but since he started attending school remotely he has quickly acclimated to the environment. He has had friends come over to “hang out” and can now interact with other peers in the hallway. Devon really feels like he fits in and is part of the group now!