I was talking with my friend recently and thought I should share a little about her and her daughter. You see, my friend’s daughter, Becky, has Celiac disease. Ironically, school is harder on my friend than it is her daughter though!
My friend, who’s name is Lori, worries a lot that her daughter will either, 1) be accidentally exposed to gluten, or 2) be unable to resist temptation and eat school food or snacks with gluten. She knows it will get easier when her daughter is older, but that is no consolation right now.
Sending a young child with gluten intolerance to school can be difficult emotionally, but with proper training and advance planning the situation can be handled. That’s my Lori’s strategy – and she works hard at it. Everyday she watches her little girl walk into a gluten-filled school. Lori has also done a lot of research on Children and Celiac disease and has worked out a plan of action she follows every school year. It’s brilliant, so I asked her if it would be alright to share it on my website. She agreed, so here’s Lori’s School Strategies!
First, she always meets with the teacher at the beginning of the school year and gives him or her a packet of information. Lori actually assembled a set of materials with a description of the disease, a list of unacceptable foods, a description of possible side effects if food with gluten is eaten (including immediate need to use the restroom), and phone numbers in case of an emergency. The packet is pre-assembled and can be used year after year. I thought that was a really good idea, and maybe one you can use.
Lori also gives the teacher a box of gluten free cookies to keep in her desk. Lori doesn’t want Becky to feel left out, so Becky always has something to eat during special events. My friend checks with the teacher regularly to make sure she always has a gluten free treat on hand. Some teachers have made Becky feel very special by presenting her dietary restrictions in the form of a lesson on healthy habits. The best snacks for a person of any age who has Celiac disease are fruit, cheese, sunflower seeds, and raisins. If we all ate such healthy snacks we would never be fighting weight gain!
Lori also pointed out something that few people realize: Some school glues contain gluten. Yes, it’s surprising to read that because we to think of gluten as a food item. But it is also used as a thickener for more than just gravy. Paste glues, play dough, and finger paint are suspect school material items a Celiac child should not use. So my friend gets a list of materials the teacher plans on using for school projects throughout the year, and assembles a special box for her daughter that the teacher keeps in her desk.
Lori said to make sure I told you that it is important to teach your child at the earliest age possible that they have a responsibility for eating the right food. She’s right too. I have a nephew who has an egg allergy and he gets really sick whenever he eats anything with eggs used as an ingredient. He began learning at age 1 he can’t eat some foods. It didn’t take long before HE started telling US what was “allowed” food.
No one, at any age, likes to be sick. Children are very resilient and just need direction. Teach your child about what they can eat and school lunches, snacks, and classroom parties won’t put dread in your mother’s heart!