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Back to school tips for gluten-free and food allergy kids

Posted on July 28th, 2009 by Alison Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

schoolbusWhether your child is gluten-free, nut-allergic or has other food allergies or intolerance, it’s not too early to begin preparing for the start of school or daycare. My own “baby” is starting kindergarten this fall and there are lots of things on my allergy to-do list! Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Here’s what you can do now:

  1. If your child has an Epi-Pen, check the expiration dates. Get prescriptions for new ones if yours have expired.
  2. Get all the medical information you need from your allergist or pediatrician. Don’t wait until the last minute rush when your doctor will be too busy.
  3. Set up a meeting with the school and/or teacher to discuss your child’s allergies. Here are some items you will want to discuss:
    • What training does the staff have for working with a child with food allergies?
    • What policies are in the place at the school regarding food allergies?
    • What policies are in the place in the classroom regarding food allergies?
    • Who provides snacks and lunch?
    • What are the snack and lunchtime procedures?
    • How will your child be protected from coming into contact with or eating other children’s food?
    • What is the food policy about special events in the classroom? How will you handle birthday parties or class prizes? You will probably want to set up a snack box — a  container with special treats that are safe for your child. Also ask if there is a freezer where you could keep a container of frosted cupcakes or other baked goods that could be microwaved at the last minute. Remember to boldly label everything!
    • How will substitute teachers be notified of your child’s allergy or intolerance? You may want to provide the teacher many copies of a pre-written notice so that he/she doesn’t have to do it or forget. Here is an example letter for a child with celiac disease: Letter to Substitute Teacher
    • What is the food rule on the bus? Is the bus driver prepared in case of emergency?
  4. Provide the teacher with a list of safe and unsafe school supplies. You can find this information here: Gluten-free art supplies for school and Potential food allergens in preschool and school activities.
  5. Discuss food allergies with your child… again. There are some great books that really help your child understand it better. Some I recommend:
  6. Read up on the topic of kids and food allergies yourself. Here are some other books that are great for parents or caregivers of allergic or gluten-free children:

One final tip: the easier you make it for the school, teachers and other parents, the more cooperative everyone will be!

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  1. Great suggestions. Kindergarden is a hard transition for parents of FA children. We are now entering into grade 1 and so far the school has been amazing. The teachers have made both my daughter and myself feel confident about their level of understanding regarding food allergies.
    I also think its a good idea to speak with parents of the children in your child’s class – whether in person or through a letter – to introduce your child and ensure that others are aware of the allergy. We found that parents were very receptive and interested in learning more about food allergies.

  2. Alison, these tips are great! I’ll be printing these out to take to my meeting next week 🙂

    The only things I would add is that there are alot of parents who volunteer at our school – I want to make sure we have a way of identifying my daughter and her allergy without making her feel singled out.

    Also, I’m going to ask where the epi’s are stored and who will be allowed to administer it (some have refused at my daughter’s preschool). Also if they are on the playground, will a staff member have an epi there or be in close proximity?

    The questions never end!!

  3. Excellent, thorough list! I would also add that if you are meeting resistance to a request, ask the school what they are worried about/what do they think will happen as a result? If they can put their concerns on the table (rather than just saying “no”), then you can work with them to meet their concerns in addition to yours.

  4. Great list! My FA child is entering 4th grade. From kindergarten through 2nd grade we successfully used a Healthcare Plan to meet his special needs. His 3rd grade year was fraught with miscommunication and issues. This year I am requesting a 504 Plan with the hopes for a stronger plan to deal with his food allergies in school.

  5. You are so thorough with your articles. Thanks for the book recommendations. I’m going to use the link to buy one.

    One other thing: My daughter is going into 3rd grade and I have to say its gotten easier. Thanks to FAAN and people like you. At first we were all freaked out (the school and me) but we’ve been able to create a safe learning environment through persistence and education. There has been a lot of learning, both the school and me.

  6. “The Trouble was Jack Had” is another great resource for kids. The upbeat and easy-to-read book was published by a Milwaukee non-profit in 2004. It can down be downloaded/printed from the Bonnie Lynn Mechanic Celiac Disease Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, The clinic’s page is under “C” for “Celiac”.. Also, take a look at the “Going Gluten-free” pamphlet while you are there.
    After my greanddaughter was dx at 20 months, we would sometimes read the “The Jack Book” 10 times a day!
    Enjoy! bev

  7. Bev,
    I looked at the book “The Trouble That Jack Has” – very cute! Thanks for letting us know about it.

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