At home, the environment can be controlled more easily when it comes to managing a gluten free lifestyle. However, there can be many challenges outside of the home and for many families that can be school.
It is important the schools understand Celiac Disease and the importance of a strict gluten free diet. Educating teachers, school nurses and other staff as well as good communication is key.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Contacting the school prior to the beginning of the school year
- Providing lists of safe gluten free products as well as products that may not be safe
- Keeping safe gluten free snacks at school for emergencies or celebrations
- Volunteering for classroom activities and field trips or becoming a class parent for younger children
- Meeting with teachers involved in any cooking or home economics classes
Families may find it helpful to obtain a 504 Plan. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 promises for equal opportunity for people with disabilities. Celiac disease is considered a disability under the Americans Disability Act. Although they may not require special education services, a plan may be needed to accommodate an appropriate education within the classroom including a gluten-free diet. You can file a 504 plan with your child’s school which arranges accommodations and outlines procedures that need to be adhered to at school, like notifying parents ahead of time when a food-related activity will take place in class or providing a microwave safe from gluten to heat up lunches.
Celiac.org is an excellent resource for 504 information and has a downloadable 504 Plan Guide.
A few examples of things to consider at school for a 504 Plan:
- Educating staff about Celiac Disease, the gluten-free diet and on the management of Celiac Disease.
- Student only allowed food sent from home or that has been approved by the parents.
- Make sure tables used as eating surfaces are wiped down before eating.
- Supervision during mealtimes to make sure only gluten-free foods are eaten and no sharing or accidental cross-contamination happens.
- Inform parents in advance of any birthdays or other celebrations so substitute foods can be provided by the parents. Allow parent to attend celebrations where food is involved.
- No contact with Play-Doh, paper mâché, or other art supplies that contain gluten. Make sure all surfaces where these materials are used have been wiped down well after.
- Make sure hands are clean from gluten, washed well, before touching any foods that child may consume.
- No cooking activities that use gluten-containing products.
- Unlimited access to bathrooms as bathroom trips may be more frequent due to gastrointestinal issues that occur from disease.
- Parent given notice or option to attend field trip if food is involved.
- Access to microwave to heat food from home, refrigerator/freezer to store foods, or a safe gluten free hot lunch arranged through the school.
- Parent’s notified immediately if accidental ingestion.