Navigating the Gluten-Free School Years
At Beyond Celiac, we understand just how stressful it can be to send your gluten-free child to school.
Parents are often torn between keeping their child safe and helping them to not feel different. Don’t worry! We have the resources you need to get your child accommodations at school, while making sure they are included with their peers.
Knowing Your Rights
In certain situations, your child may be protected under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This act applies to all institutions receiving federal financial assistance, such as public schools. Under this law, public schools must provide a free, appropriate public education and not discriminate against disabled students.
This law acknowledges that the disability may not require special education services, but a plan is needed to ensure the student receives an appropriate education accommodating the disability within the classroom. This law must accommodate a special diet, including the gluten-free diet for children with celiac disease.
You can work with your child’s school to develop a 504 Plan, which stems from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This section prevents discrimination against public school students in grades K through 12 because of disabilities. A 504 plan is meant to “remove barriers” to learning by providing a specific outline on how to make accommodations or modifications on a student-by-student basis.
For more in-depth information on the 504 Plan, where to start, who to contact and a roadmap to developing the 504 Plan:
Download: The Beyond Celiac Back to School Toolkit
Article: Know Your Food Allergy Rights
Article: When Grandparents Don’t Get Gluten-Free
Packing a Gluten-Free Lunch
Many parents opt to pack a lunch for their child instead of the school cafeteria. This can help to alleviate many concerns surrounding ingredients and preparation practices of the cafeteria. Most parents say they get stuck in a rut when packing lunches – gluten-free or not.
Use these tips to keep your child’s lunch both gluten-free and delicious.
- Spend two weeks experimenting with new products and recipes. Have three envelopes in the kitchen for your child to cut out labels and distribute in envelopes labeled “like it,” “love it,” “hate it.” Don’t forget to experiment with raw fruits and veggies, too.
- Get creative with spreads, dips, jams, etc. Just keep them contained in something that is truly airtight (for extra protection, store in plastic bag). Make sure they are labeled gluten-free on the package when you purchase.
- If you have a picky eater or a child who needs to gain weight after their diagnosis, nutritional shakes, power bars and calorie powders can pack a punch. Make sure they are labeled gluten-free. Consult with a registered dietitian to help with your meal plan.
- When you find a winning combo, send enough with your child to share. That will show your child’s peers that gluten-free food is not “weird” and your child will have the opportunity to feel part of the group.
Get more food ideas on our A Guide to the Gluten-Free Diet for Kids page and our Kids Lunch Recipes page.
Parenting Articles: Tackling School Issues
What better place to get advice than from the parents who’ve been there before? Beyond Celiac recruited parents and experts to talk about common issues that come up during the school-aged years.
Visit the Articles & Resources section for blog posts that tackle the school issues.
Infographic: The Beyond Celiac Back to School Checklist.
Download: Download The Beyond Celiac Back to School Toolkit for more tips, recipes and information on your child’s nutritional needs
Infographic: Think Outside the Lunchbox: Gluten-Free Lunch Ideas for the Kids