Archive for Parenting
Yikes! My kids go back to school this week! Ever since they started preschool, we’ve been on the traditional schedule of starting school after labor day. So starting in August, feels really early to me. Especially since we spent most of our summer moving! But we’re ready. The kids are anxious to learn about their new school and meet some new friends. And I…well, I am ready to get back on a schedule. I still have a lot of boxes to unpack and organize. And that’s a little easier without the kids at home.
As we are getting so close to the start, I’ve been going through some of my older posts about keeping the kids gluten free at school. We’ll have new teachers, administrators, and nurses to connect with and make sure they understand the importance of my kids being gluten free.
Earlier this year, I put together a page (Gluten Free in School) with all the posts I have written about managing my kids’ gluten-free diets at school. Maybe you’re preparing for school, too, and would like some new ideas to review? I’ve got sample letters to teachers, snack and classroom party food ideas, and craft recipes all linked. So, check it out and feel free to add your own ideas in the comments. Simply click on “Gluten Free in School” on the menu bar above. Or here: Gluten Free in School.
Want to discuss the issue further? NFCA (along with the sponsor Mary’s Gone Crackers) is facilitating a Back-to-School webinar about “….Preparing to Educate Administrators on the Importance of Gluten-Free.” To be a part of it, you can register for free at CeliacCentral.org. And don’t worry if you miss it. After the event, they will post the webinar on their website, so you can download it and review later from their archived webinars.
Updated September 7, 2011
My kids are back in school this year. Every year, I write letters to my kids’ teachers to introduce my kids and let the teachers know about their food restrictions. I give the letters to the teachers at the school open house, the week before school actually begins. I’ve revised some things with my letters this year:
- First, I added the principal to the distribution. In the past, I’ve only given a copy to the teachers and school health nurse.
- Second, I added field trips to the list of activities to be concerned about.
- And finally, I enclosed a copy of my son’s individual health plan. I didn’t think that was necessary to do, since it was created with the school nurse and on file at the school. But, I found out last year, that the teacher and principal didn’t know it even existed. So, I’m hoping that my letters this year close a few gaps in the communication chain.
I also wrote a letter directly to the school nurse and principal that expressed concern about how the “specials” teachers would be informed and made aware of the food restrictions. Occasionally, the kids will be offered rewards in the form of candy, popsicles, popcorn, etc. from other teachers (art, music, PE, etc.). We never had a problem with it last year, but our school has quite a few new teachers this year. And, I want to limit (as much as possible) the chance of my kids getting sick from gluten. You may want to put this into the letter to your teachers, instead of writing a separate letter.
This year, I’ve put the letter into a document that you can open and review. Just click on the letter image below. I know your family has different kids, teachers, and school systems that will require you to personalize your own letter. I hope that by sharing my letter with you, I have given you some ideas of what to write in your own letters. And, if you think of something that you feel I should add to mine, please share your thoughts in the comments.
Original post September 8, 2009
It’s Back to School Week at Celiac Family. My son starts Kindergarten today! We’re all pretty excited about it. But, being the mother that I am, I’m a little nervous, too. He’s been gluten free for more than four years, and is very good about making sure foods are gluten-free before eating them. But, this is the first time I won’t be walking him into the classroom. When he was in preschool, I could see what activities were planned for the day, check the snacks in the classroom, and the teachers could ask me any questions about craft products they were using. I know it’s time to let go of some of the control, but it’s hard to let go when it’s about his health.
Not knowing the Kindergarten teacher or the school, I didn’t know what the typical day would be like or what kind of student activities might be an issue for us. So, I wrote a letter to the teacher to express my concerns. I also enclosed with the letter some more detailed information about Celiac Disease. (It never hurts to raise awareness about Celiac Disease, right?) We found out who my son’s teacher would be a day before Open House, so I hand delivered the letter to the teacher. We got to speak briefly about it, but she was busy meeting the other new students and parents. Even if you get a chance to speak to your child’s teacher at length, I think it’s a good idea to put your concerns in writing. That way there’s less chance of miscommunication. Plus, it gives the teacher something to refer to later. I also gave a copy of the letter to the school nurse.
I’ve copied my letter below for you to use for inspiration. When I sat down to write the letter, I did a quick search online to find some sample letters. I knew there were some out there, but couldn’t find one at the time. After I took the time to write the letter, I did find some other great resources to help prepare yourself and your child for the new school year.
- “GF Letter for School” at Gluten-Free is Life
- Form letters to schools/child care providers at Dallas R.O.C.K.
- “Back-to-school checklist for celiac families” at The Savvy Celiac
- “Back to school tips for gluten-free and food allergy kids” at Sure Foods Living
- “Navigating the School System” at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness – This addresses the issue of getting the school to accommodate the gluten-free diet. Be sure to scroll down the page for information about a 504 Plan, a letter to educators and a physician’s letter.
September 3, 2009
CC: School Nurse
Re: Student’s name
Our son is so excited to start Kindergarten in your class at WS Elementary. We have completed all the required forms and paperwork. You will notice in the health forms, that he has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley (malt), rye and sometimes oats. Our son is actually very healthy, but he must manage Celiac Disease with a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. It is very important to his health that he remains gluten free.
Since he has not yet started Kindergarten, we are not familiar with the procedures for activities and snack time in your class. So, I am providing this information to you in order for our son to avoid any possible contact with gluten.
We will provide our son with a gluten-free snack everyday. He is aware of his condition, and has been instructed not to trade snacks or eat any other food without first confirming with an adult that it is gluten-free. He should also avoid any contact with other classmates’ snacks, or crumbs of snacks, that contain gluten.
In addition to snacks, our son should also avoid contact with craft products that contain gluten. Of most concern to me is play dough, pasta, hay/straw, fingerpaints and paper maché, since they are products that almost always contain wheat and/or are likely to get under his fingernails. Other products that may contain wheat are glue, paint, and ink. To be clear, our son does not get a reaction just from touching gluten, however if it gets on his hands and fingers it could be transferred to his mouth. I would be happy to review the ingredients of any craft products in the classroom to determine if they do contain gluten. If they do, I will be happy to provide a suitable substitution.
If our son does accidentally come into contact with gluten at school, I ask that you immediately have him wash his hands thoroughly. He does not have an allergic response, such as anaphylaxis, so no medicine nor medical attention is required. I would simply request that you make me aware of the contact with the gluten (through a note sent home with him and/or a phone call/email) so that I can monitor his health. And, we can determine how to avoid it in the future.
If you allow students to bring in birthday treats to share, I ask that we be made aware of it a day or two in advance. Cupcakes and cookies, unless made with special alternative flours, are not gluten-free. If notified in advance of what will be brought in, our son can bring a gluten-free alternative in order to celebrate with the other students. If it works for you, I can also provide you with a box of safe, gluten-free treats to store for our son in cases of surprise treat occasions.
For your information, I have enclosed documents that provide detailed information about Celiac Disease. Please feel free to call or email me anytime with any questions or concerns.
[Be sure to provide your name and contact information here.]
Earlier this month, I mentioned in my review of Mi-Del cookies that I give my kids’ teachers a small care package of gluten-free snacks at the beginning of the year for them to store in the classroom for my kids. These are not meant to be the snacks that my kids get to eat everyday. (I send my kids to school each day with gluten-free snacks and lunch.) The snacks in this care package are there for backup reasons because sometimes snacks and treats are offered in the classroom that aren’t gluten-free. And having these in the classroom makes sure that my kids are not left out of any last-minute activities involving gluten. For example:
- Probably the most common situation: A classmate brings in cupcakes, cookies, or treats to share with the class for their birthday. My son chooses a package of cookies out of his gluten-free package.
- The class earns a reward (popcorn) for good behavior or reaching a class goal, but the teacher isn’t sure if it’s gluten-free. My son gets a bag of popcorn or chips out of the gluten-free package.
- The teacher creates a project that involves building something with pretzels or crackers, but forgets to tell us in advance. My daughter gets out her gluten-free pretzels or crackers to use instead.
- My daughter’s snack or lunch didn’t make it to school and the cafeteria doesn’t offer anything gluten-free. My daughter can eat from her GF care package if I’m unable to bring it to school.
- It is perhaps unlikely, but should an emergency situation arise and the school is on lock-down, I know my kids will have something they can eat without getting sick.
What’s in a Gluten-Free Care Package? I like to choose self-contained, single-serve, small packages of gluten-free items that won’t spoil in the teacher’s cabinet or desk. I also try to present it to the teacher in a small container that is easy for them to store. A large zip-style bag, or medium size plastic container clearly labeled Gluten-Free for my son or daughter seems to work well. Here are some items that we have used for this purpose:
- Midel, S’mores cookies
- Pamela’s 2-Count Cookie Packs: Chocolate Chunk Pecan Shortbread and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip
- Pebbles Treats Fruity Pebbles variety and Cocoa Pebbles variety
- Schar Chocolate Hazelnut Bars
- Schar Sandwich Creme Cookies (2 cookies in each package) Vanilla Creme variety and Chocolate Creme variety
- Surf Sweets Gummy Bear Snack Packs
- Ener-G Foods Pretzel Rings
- FoodShouldTasteGood Multigrain Tortilla Chips
- Glutino Pretzel Twists Snack Packs
- Pirate’s Booty
- Schar Gluten Free Snack Crackers These come in a box of 6 individual packs. Each pack contains 8 crackers.
- Smartfood White Cheddar Popcorn (Be careful! We have not experienced any problems with this product, however it is not guaranteed gluten-free. According to Frito-Lay, there are no gluten ingredients in this product. Unfortunately, they do no currently test these for traces of gluten.)
- Annie’s Homegrown Bunny Fruit Snacks
- Ocean Spray Craisins 100-calorie Packs
- Simply Fruit Fruit Rollups
Rice, Granola, or Energy Bars:
- Bakery On Main Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
- Can Do Kid Bars
- EnviroKidz Peanut Choco Drizzle Crispy Rice Bars
Communicate with the teacher! It’s been my experience that most teachers are familiar and comfortable with this arrangement. However, I strongly suggest that you discuss it with the teacher before sending a small care package of food to school. This may not work in all classrooms or for all teachers. Along with the package of food that I provide to the teacher, I like to attach a brief note to remind the teacher what it is for, and to please let me know if at any time during the year it needs to be replenished.
Make it easy on yourself. Our family is fortunate to live in an area with gluten-free snack items available at our grocery stores. If this isn’t the case for you, you can order some items online. A single box of the Schar sandwich cookies with your student’s name clearly written on it would do the trick. Or, perhaps a small bag of your child’s favorite candy would work for you.
More occasions to use a gluten-free care package. All of these items would also be great gluten-free additions for a gluten-free lunch, a gift to send to college students, and for a travel pack.
Do you do something similar? Please feel free to add any other ideas in the comments.