Sep
04

Keeping Celiac Kids Gluten-Free at School

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Added September 4, 2013
school bus

Well, now that Labor Day is past, I think kids everywhere are back at school now. We actually started school last month, and this year I thought it was time for a newly updated letter to give to my kids’ teachers. Now that my kids are getting older and more independent, I feel more confident that they can read the ingredients on labels and make decisions about what is safe for them to eat. So, with that in mind, I updated the letter to give my kids more responsibility in making sure they are gluten free at school. But, even though I know my kids can make good food decisions, I wanted to make sure the teacher knew about their dietary restrictions and would be supportive about it in the classroom.

Due to an email I recently received from a reader, I also dug out an old letter I created to send to other parents. It tells parents about my children’s needs to be gluten-free, along with a request to be notified about any birthday celebrations in advance. The letter also includes a small list of gluten-free snack ideas. You may want to use this letter for preschool and kindergarten classes that share or rotate snack responsibilities. It also works great for sports teams, clubs, church groups, scouts, etc.

These are all letters I have created and shared on Google Docs so that you can copy text or save as another document and make your own revisions to fit your own needs. Just click on the links to get started.

Letter to teacher — for more independent kids.

Letter to send to other parents — about snacks for preschool classes, teams, clubs, etc.

Letter to teacher and school officials — for younger kids.

Find even more ideas at Gluten Free in School: Snacks, Lunchbox ideas, Care Packages, Classroom Party Foods, Crafts, etc.

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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.

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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.

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September 3, 2009

To: Teacher
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.

Thank you,

[Be sure to provide your name and contact information here.]

Enclosures:
“What Is Celiac Disease?” (I copied several pages from Danna Korn’s “Kids with Celiac Disease“)
Unsafe Gluten-Free List
Safe Gluten-Free List
Quick list of gluten-free snacks

Categories : Parenting

19 Comments

1

Great article!

Thanks for linking to my letter, I appreciate it!

Kim

2

Months before my now 5-year-old started the universal Pre-K in the elementary school last year I met with the Principal, nutritionist, & nurse. She was the first in the Elementary school with Celiac disease in a very rural district. Previous information the nutritionist had received from high schoolers with CD had been erroneous (“I have CD but I can eat the cafeteria pizza” type things).

Closer to the start of school I met with the classroom teacher to work out how we would handle snacks. I provided snacks for my daughter for every day as well as provided one day for the class a weeks so my daughter could eat the same as others once in awhile—expensive but worth it. We also talked about CD in general, how to manage cross contamination, and I provided a copy of the GF grocery shopping guide for the teacher’s use throughout the year.

The first day of school I met with the cafeteria monitors and answered any questions they had, shared a photo of my daughter and worked out issues of cross contamination such as (I send her lunch daily) her talking a clean tray in the lunch line so the gluten contamination on the table from previous lunch sessions was not a concern.

My daughter got through the year with no medical mishaps and a lot of people were educated in the process. Approaching the staff and teachers explaining that you want to be part of a team seems to work wonders.

3

My child is not gluten free but I am about 90% of the time. I enjoy reading your menu ideas. I think that is a fabulous letter to his teacher! Great job keeping the teacher informed!

4

Amy, thanks for sharing your experience with the schools. I imagine I will be getting more involved with the school staff this year, too. But more so next year when my son will be attending full-day classes and utilizing the cafeteria. I like your idea of having your daughter use a clean lunch tray. I’ll have to keep that in mind.

5

Vinomom, thanks for the encouragement! I’m sure there will be more school activities this year that will necessitate more letters and discussions with teachers, staff, parents, etc.

6

Thankfully I was home schooled when I was going through getting diagnosed etc. I bet it would of been hard in a public or private school setting, even in college people would look at me funny bringing my own “special” meals or that I could not just go out to any restaurant and eat what they ate.

– Jessika : Celiac Speaks – Symptoms, Recipes, Restaurants and Daily Life

7

[…] letter to the teacher that explains my concerns […]

8

[…] article addresses the question of how to brief the child’s teacher, the Principal, and the school staff on the issues involved in dealing […]

9

[…] Summer break this year.  The kids are going back to school tomorrow. I’ve been busy writing letters to the teachers and making gluten-free play dough to start the year off right. I’ll have to post the updates […]

10

Thanks for this post, Heather! Will share it for sure. Hope it turns out to be a great and safe school year for your kids! :-)

Shirley

11

Love this and the snacks with links post. You are providing an excellent service to those parents with Celiac Children.
Extraordinary Life

12

Thanks, Shirley. Always appreciate your support!

13

Thanks for the encouragement, Lisa!

14

Thank you for your letter. I have submitted one similar to yours this year, as in past years. I think this year I have a “can not be bothered” teacher. So far I’m very unhappy with her response to a serious condition. Ugh.

I’m assured by reading your letter that mine doesn’t seem bossy, wordy, or unreasonable.

15

Amanda – Sorry about the teacher. Hope the year gets better for you. Since we’re just getting started with our school year, I’m not sure what to expect yet. But, at least one of the teachers has her own food allergy, so I think she’ll be both sympathetic and mindful.

16

I have major problems with digestion, but really, do you expect us to believe your kid is that affected?
Seems like a lot of whiny complaining to me.

Mcat

17

Dg – Sorry you feel the letters I have posted are “whiny complaining.” But, yes, I believe what the doctors and celiac researchers have told me regarding the effects of gluten on those diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Dr. Fasano’s research has shown that the intestines of a Celiac begin to show damage with a mere 20 parts per million of gluten. That’s less than a crumb. As a mother of a celiac, I will take precautionary measures to help my son keep gluten out of his body. I don’t think giving a letter to his teachers at school so that they are aware of my son’s condition is unreasonable. I am glad that you feel your “major problems with digestion” are not as severely affected by gluten.

18

My son was just diagnosed with CD last week so this letter is exactly what we need for back-to-school night today. Thanks so much!

19

[…] Gluten-Free Letter to School Teacher/School Nurse – Celiac Family – … principal or school nurse about a child with Celiac Disease and/or on a gluten-free diet. Celiac child at a new … If our son does accidentally come into contact with gluten at school, … I’ve been busy writing letters to the teachers and making gluten-free play dough to start the … […]

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