5 Tips for the Gluten-Free School Years
[Kids spend hours a day at school – including meal times. College students live and eat on campus. How do you ensure their dietary needs are met? Wendy Gregory Kaho of Celiacs in the House shared her tips for navigating the school years with your gluten-free child.]
Whether it is preschool or college, planning ahead is the key to gluten-free school success. Here are my best tips for making you child safe and understood at school. Including your child at every step along the way will build confidence and teach important life skills.
1. Know your rights and advocate for your child.
Find a support group with experienced parents who can offer their insight and advice, and use online resources to educate yourself about your rights. Armed with the facts and good support it will be easier to take a calm, yet firm approach with school staff.
A 504 Plan Guide is on the Resources/Printable Guides page at the NFCA site.
2. Educate the staff.
This includes the school nurse, teacher, cafeteria staff, counselor, and principal. Explain what to expect from your child and how to best meet the child’s needs while sharing the facts about celiac disease and its only treatment, which is a gluten-free diet. Inform the staff of possible reactions to gluten that your child might experience and how they can help your child after accidental gluten exposure.
Look at the sample Teacher Letter on the NFCA site.
3. Plan and prepare for parties, field trips and events that involve food.
Whether you keep a supply of gluten-free treats for your child at school in a freezer or special drawer or plan on events as they occur, staying informed and prepared will help your child feel included. Make the process fun and an opportunity to teach nutrition and the cooking skills that will serve your child for a lifetime.
Take a look at the fun gluten-free kid food ideas on Pinterest.
4. Empower your child.
Include them in the process of choosing foods and planning and packing lunches. Role-play and practice how to explain their dietary needs.
Gluten-free school lunch ideas from Heidi at Adventures of a Gluten-Free Mom will get you started.
5. Stay positive.
Help your child see the opportunities to advocate for themselves and others with special diets or other needs.
Find more resources at NFCA’s website, including resources for all school levels and webinars in the archives with more school tips.
– Wendy Gregory Kaho