Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to School Gluten-Free Style!

I can't believe school is just around the corner! I have to say, I think I'm ready and so are my kids! Well, at least Jack's older sister is, but Jack could stay home and play with his Trio Blocks and Imaginext castles all day!

Jack is ready for Pre-School!

Luckily for Jack, he will have the opportunity to do so since he will only be gone a couple of days a week at Pre-School.

Each year when Jack returns to school I will have to educate his teacher and others on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.

So with that said, I've compiled 5 Tips to help make our kiddos transition back to school as smooth as possible.

5 Tips on Going Back to School Gluten-Free Style:

1) First and foremost, provide a document to your child's teacher/principal/gym teacher/ etc. that's geared toward your child's age and explain celiac disease, how long they have had, the gluten-free diet, cross contamination, etc. Below is an example of Jack's Letter:

To Whom It May Concern: (Teacher’s Name, Principal’s Name, etc.)

This letter is to inform you that our son Jack has a special medical condition. Jack was diagnosed with celiac disease when he was 2 years old. Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that prevents Jack from being able to eat any gluten. So for the past 3 years, Jack has been living a gluten-free lifestyle.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley and derivatives of these grains. Gluten is in a wide variety of foods - from cookies, breads, pastas, cereals, snack foods and more. Even in some products that have artificial flavoring or seasonings.

Cross contamination is also a concern. Gluten is also found in medicine, PlayDoh and other art and craft supplies. For the Play Doh, in the past I’ve allowed Jack to play with it and having his hands washed thoroughly afterwards, but to be on the safe side, I would like to provide some Crayola Model Magic which is gluten-free and some of his own tools/cutters to keep separate from the others.

Because celiac disease is not an allergy, he WILL NOT be in immediate danger, although he will likely experience stomach discomfort or pain later if he eats gluten. With Jack only being 5 yrs. old, we are still learning the signs and symptoms of when he may have been “glutened” by cross contamination.

It would be so appreciated if you could help me with the following requests so I can be prepared with gluten-free items as needed:

1) Could you please provide a list of all the birthdays in the class? This will allow me to prepare accordingly and have something for Jack on the days that special treats are brought in.

2) Would you mind sending a letter home to parents just letting them know that you have a child in the class that needs to avoid gluten/wheat products and just ask that if they plan to bring in a special treat for his/her child’s birthday, could they please let you know ahead of time - so I can have something prepared for Jack? That would so helpful.

3) For Thursdays special snack - could you please let me know in advance what you plan to make for the following week so I can provide a gluten-free option? Ex: graham crackers, waffle cones, crackers, etc.

4) Lastly, if you ever have any questions about Jack’s diet or have a question about eating a certain food, please don’t hesitate to call me. (Provide Phone Number)

If you would like to know more about Jack’s story and Celiac Disease, please visit 

Thank you so much for working with me to make Jack’s school year gluten-free friendly! 


Jack’s Mamma

2) Lunch - For safety, I would think a lunch should be packed from home every day.  BUT, I know they offer salads and baked potatoes - so it would be wise to talk to the Cafeteria Manager and ask what they can provide for a gluten-free lunch and make sure they truly understand about cross contamination.

3) Birthday and Pizza Parties - ask for as much notice as possible for special events. Have cupcakes and frozen GF pizza or pizza crust on hand in the freezer so you can have what's needed on the day of the special event.

4) Make sure to let the teacher and school nurse know that your child may be tired, may need more restroom breaks, may have some stomach cramping, etc. I definitely don't want to see any child sitting miserably in the classroom. This is great to include in your letter as well!

5) Last but not least, BE AN ADVOCATE for raising awareness about celiac disease. Educate those at your child's school.  Anyway to make our child's transition through life as easy as possible without feeling different or left out just because of his/her gluten-free diet should be our priority as parents.

There you have it! The best way to make our kids school year gluten-free friendly is to COMMUNICATE with those that will be with our children every day!

Best wishes for a great school year!


  1. Thank you for this blog. My 5 yr old daughter has celiac too along with various food allergies. We have already had a meeting with all the adults and lunch room ladies as well as created a 504 plan to prepare for her Kindergarten school year. I agree with all of the points you have made. Good luck this gluten-free school year.

  2. Thank you, I think I'm going to borrow a lot of your 'letter to teacher' etc. My kids school lunch lady turned white when I asked her about gluten-free options, she flat out told me we couldn't trust anything they made. At least she was honest.
    One thing I would suggest is a book that the teacher can share with the other kids in the class. There are a number of very good children's info books about Celiac, and it will help the other kids understand the why of the different, which can be a big counter to the problems being 'different' can cause.