Ok, so, it’s been a while since I posted! Many apologies!!! Well, we’ve started the new school year and with that comes the meetings with the teachers. I’ve a had a couple parents ask for some tips in helping their children have as normal learning environment as possible. Well it can be done!!!
1) As soon as you can, meet with your child’s teacher(s). Educate them about Celiac Disease and what it means to the child and to the teacher. Remember it’s not just about the gluten free diet; if you have young children, it also involves their activities and what they use in the classroom.
2) Do you need a general Health Plan or do you need a 504 Plan? This is a conversation with the child’s teacher. The Health Plan is more of action plan for how to handle concerns if there is an accidental ingestion or exposure. It also can provide guidance of how to handle classroom activities (such as using Play-Doh, having cupcakes in the classroom, using food as counting manipulatives, etc). The Health Plan is not enforceable and has very little teeth. But, if you have a good communication network and relationship with the school staff, a Health Plan may be the solution. On the other hand, the 504 Plan is enforceable and is a formal agreement on accommodating the child to ensure a safe learning environment. Schools are not the biggest fans of these because they are enforceable and requires accountability.
3) Be prepared for the unexpected celebrations. As with any new school year, there will be a continuous stream of friends’ birthday party invitations. If you have a Health Plan at school, this is where the unfortunate isolation may begin. At my home, we freeze a dozen or so cupcakes. When there is an in-class celebration, just pull one out and have the child bring it to school. For outside-the-school celebrations, it’s easy to pull out a cupcake and bring it along. Also, having gluten free frozen pizza comes in handy when there is a pizza party. Heat the pizza and bring it with the child.
4) School lunches are not impossible!!! There are always stumbling blocks on what to pack for lunch. You can do sandwiches with gluten free bread, but that may get boring after a while. My youngest daughter is really into crackers and cheese, or crackers and hummus, or crackers and tuna. You can create a gluten-free version of the Oscar Meyer’s Lunchables! My oldest daughter prefers wrapping a slice of ham with a slice of cheese. And, we always pack a piece of fruit and a veggie! If packing lunches are still daunting, but you have a 504 Plan, then the school is required to provide a gluten free lunch for your child. In that case, communicating with the lunch staff is essential.
Well, these are the top items to be familiar with as you start the new school year!!!! Next week I’m meeting with my daughter’s school district re her 504 Plan! I’ll let you know how that turns out!