Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Going Back to School Gluten Free

I hate to admit it but it's getting to be that time of the year: it's time to get ready to go back to school.  And with back to school time comes a lot of planning.  For me, that means lesson planning, seating charts, first day if school activities, and planning some sort of organization scheme for my classroom.  I'm sure, for parents, back to school means planning on how to get your kids up in the morning, finding out their teacher, and getting all of the school supplies they need to start the year.  And for parents of kids with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it means planning on how to keep your students healthy while out school.

I can't imagine being a kid trying to avoid gluten during the school day.  As a teacher, it's hard enough to keep myself from eating gluten and cross-contamination and I'm an adult who packs their own lunch.  With class birthday parties, cafeteria food, candy during holidays, and kids sharing lunches, it must get really stressful making sure your child is gluten-free during the school day.  But after working in schools for more years than I care to mention, I have learned a few tricks for staying gluten-free during the school day:

  1. Make sure the office knows: Most schools will have parents fill out some sort of registration and health update when children go back to school.  It is really important to include on this information that your child has an intolerance to gluten.  This may seem obvious but I have noticed that some parents forget to put food allergies on those forms.  When you fill out those forms, all of your child's teachers will have access to that information and will be alerted to the allergy.
  2. Still, talk to the teacher: Even if the office knows, it is important to talk personally to your student's teacher about their food limitations. Let the teacher know that they simply can not have any contact to gluten as it will be damaging to their health.  Many teachers like to give their students treats from time to time, so instead of listing all of the foods your child can not have, I would bring a bag with your child's name on it filled with celiac-friendly treats.  That way the teacher will not have to memorize the daunting list of food with gluten and you'll have peace of mind knowing that your child's health is being taken care of.  I would also ask the teacher to mail a list of days where there may be class parties (birthdays, holidays, etc.) Teachers, especially elementary teachers, make these anyways and then you can bring in a gluten-free cupcake or cookie for your student on party days so they are not left out of the fun.
  3. But do tell the teacher about school supplies with gluten: You do need to tell the teacher about potential school supplies with gluten in them, like papier mache and Play-Doh.  I believe that there are gluten-free versions of Play-Doh but the teacher needs to know as this is not common knowledge.  Ask if there is something else they can do if these types of projects are in the curriculum for the year; most teachers will accommodate. :)
Any other ways to stay gluten-free at school?  Share in the comments section!

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