Whether your child is newly diagnosed or been living with celiac disease or gluten intolerance for a long time, you may experience worries and or anxieties sending your children to school. This fall I get to send my gluten free baby to kindergarten. I have a plethora of anxieties and worries, but I cannot deny her the joy of experiencing school life just like any other child. I have no choice but to face this new chapter in our life head on.
When sending our Celiac/Gluten Intolerant children to school it is very important to establish a kind and positive relationship with your child’s teacher and principle as well as be proactive and hands on, willing to provide resources, information and help to the teacher when needed. I have compiled a list of helpful hints and resources to help make this transition easier. Remember each experience will vary and you will not always get the response you expect or deserve. Try to stay positive and take one day at a time.
Do write an introduction letter to school teachers and principles explaining your child’s condition.
Do provide complete information on celiac disease or gluten intolerance to school officials, or provide links to websites where they can easily find this information. www.csaceliacs.org and www.gluten.net Have this be extra information in your child’s info packet. Don’t overwhelm them with this. Explaining to the teacher the child’s symptoms, what happens when they get exposed and what things/foods to stay away from will be enough to overwhelm the teacher.
Don’t expect your school principle, nurse or teacher to become and instant expert on Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance. This is an unrealistic expectation, but do educate them with the most important things they need to know that effect your child as an individual.
Do be kind to the teacher and school officials.
Do be willing to bring special snacks to have on hand just for your child.
Do provide a list on suggestion of what safe snacks would be appropriate for your child. It may help to have at the bottom of that list a list of snacks that are not safe too. Some teachers may consider sending the list home to other parents. Lexie’s teacher offered to send a note home to the parents explaining her condition and asking them to consider safe snack alternatives when it is their snack day. I thought this was very thoughtful.
Don’t demand or expect that the teacher and other student parents provide safe snacks for your child. You can ask them to consider, but it may not be a realistic expectation for all parents and we don’t know what personal situations they are in.
Do offer a rubbermaid container that you can put convenience type snacks in like Gluten Free Animal Crackers, GF cookies, Rice Crackers, Fruit Snacks, GF cereal munchies, etc.
Don’t expect the teachers/school officials to be as emotional as you are about this issue. It doesn’t effect them the way it does you and they do not know what you deal with from day to day.
Don’t overreact if your child accidentally gets exposed. This can cause dissension between you and the school staff and can scare your child. Yes, getting exposed is serious and can cause serious reactions, but your child will not die from one accidental exposure. Instead use the experience to try to educate the individuals involved so that they can learn from the experience and try their best to not allow it to happen again. Remember accidents can happen.
And last but not least…
DO be available to bring in snacks for school parties, help out in the classroom, answer questions, offer friendly suggestions and be hands on in your child’s school experience. In fact all parents should do this whether they have children with special food issues or not.
For more information like sample letters, snack sheets go to www.glutenfremama.com in the kids corner.