THE story of four-year-old Amber Pask who, because she suffers from a rare, life-threatening nut allergy, is only allowed to attend school if her mother is constantly by her side, struck a chord with me this week.

I have a son who suffers from a similar severe food allergy. But thankfully, staff at his school are more understanding. They know that children like William are normal and healthy, unless they eat the foodstuffs they are allergic to.

He first suffered a reaction a year ago, when his mouth tingled and itched after eating tuna and prawns, foods which hadn't affected him before. But blood tests showed he was severely allergic and that the next attack would probably be much more extreme.

Although just a trace of the allergen can trigger the rapid, life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis, which can cause breathing problems, unconsciousness and collapse, the condition is manageable, as long as everyone is aware and the correct medical treatment is given promptly.

That is why William carries an adrenaline injection, known as an EpiPen, which all his teachers have been trained to use.

If his school, like Amber's, was not willing to take on this responsibility I, too, would have to sit in on classes with him - which is the last thing a perfectly normal nine-year-old boy wants.

It would stifle his independence, sap his confidence and probably, given that so many adults around him appear unable to cope with his condition, leave him feeling freakish, panicky and nervous about what could happen.

This sort of allergy is, worryingly, on the increase among children. Although at least one in 200 people are thought to have the condition, two other children at William's 100-pupil village school in North Yorkshire suffer from it. And at his cousin's 500-pupil primary school, six youngsters carry EpiPens.

If these figures reflect the national trend, more teachers will have to be trained to deal with severe allergic reactions, and they must be given the support necessary to help them to feel confident about doing so.

But if decisions about how to deal with such pupils are left up to individual schools, there are many more children like Amber who could end up feeling unnecessarily stigmatised and isolated.

Shouldn't they, like all their classmates, be allowed to enjoy a normal childhood?

I USED to think journalists, usually portrayed in TV soaps and dramas as self-serving, scheming, deceitful, drunken slobs, had it bad. But now family doctors are complaining TV dramas like Peak Practice are undermining their work - because they make out they are too perfect, leading many to feel disappointed with them in real life. Perhaps we journalists should just be grateful that when people do meet us they will be pleasantly surprised at how lovely, caring, genuine and charming we actually are - well, most of us anyway.

TWO months on and the American twins, "bought' by a British couple on the Internet, are still in council care, when they should be bonding with parents who will love them for a lifetime. The hearing, to decide who should raise them, has been adjourned for a further two weeks. Do such interminable delays benefit anyone, apart from high-earning lawyers?

I DID sympathise with Stephen Hone, the man begging his pregnant girlfriend not to have an abortion because he wants to bring up their baby, until I read that this moral crusader abandoned his wife and children and then refused to provide maintenance for them. It is hardly surprising if his girlfriend is now questioning what sort of future this child would have.