Towards the end of summer, kids and parents alike begin thinking of the school year ahead. This is a time for parents to consider how they’ll address the transition into a new classroom (and perhaps a new school) for their gluten-free children. Increased awareness of celiac disease and the gluten-free diet means that more schools are accommodating the needs of gluten-free kids. However, it’s still essential for the parents/guardians of each child to communicate directly with their child’s teacher and other school personnel.
Once the school has opened up again after the summer break, contact the school’s administrative and food service departments to find out whether the school food service is set up to provide gluten-free meals. Parents may be able to work with foodservice staff to assist in making gluten-free items available. (If safe gluten-free options are not available through the food-service, plan to focus on having your child help make tasty and creative gluten-free sack lunches.)
When your child’s teacher has been assigned, contact that individual directly to discuss your child’s situation and how any classroom activities related to food will be handled. Where appropriate, offer to provide a stash of gluten-free treats the teacher can keep in the classroom, so there is always something safe for your child to eat when the need or occasion comes up.
The GIG educational bulletin “Understanding Your Student” provides basic information about celiac disease and the needs of a gluten-free student which can arise in a classroom situation. Take a copy of this hand-out to your child’s teacher as well as to other school staff. Also available are templates of letters which can be individualized for your child: one directed to teachers and another directed to staff of field trip destinations. Each of these documents can be found on the GIG website at www.gluten.net, in the Kids section of “Educational Bulletins.”