It’s that time again….back to school, for some people, at least. Others will be heading back in the next few weeks. Bearing this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to talk about how you can get your child’s school on board with your GFCF Diet. Whether you have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), a 504 Plan, or simply mainstream your child – there are accommodations you can request from the school.
With an IEP, you can request to have the diet accommodation specifics written into your goals. Sometimes, schools will resist this because if it’s in the IEP, they can be held to a higher level of accountability. Other schools may try to tell you that they can’t write it into the IEP at all because a diet is not considered a goal.
A 504 Plan is a bit more accommodating, but not always. Technically, because the 504 Plan is set up to prevent discrimination of people with disabilities from participating fully in the same programs offered to non-disabled students. This means that your child can not be prohibited from participating in the School Lunch Program just because they follow a GFCF Diet. However, since Celiac Disease and/or food allergies are not listed as a disability in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA, for short), it’s again tough to get the school to follow this as a “requirement” of any kind.
So, now, what can you do? First, if your child is too young to know what food items may or may not contain gluten or casein, be sure that they pack a lunch each day. You can also speak with the Health Office at your child’s school about how to alert the cafeteria that your child is on a special diet and cannot go through the lunch line for any reason. In addition, it’s a good idea to talk with your child’s teacher(s) about the foods that they can/cannot eat and consider writing a letter to all staff members that might give your child food. (I’ve put a link to a sample letter that I used this past year with success at my son’s school.)
Finally, provide alternative foods for your child at the office and/or teacher’s classroom. I keep both cold and room-temperature items at the office and at my son’s classroom for my son, in case he is still hungry from lunch or if a surprise class party happens. This has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion! If you can find out who the room parent is for the year, this will also be a big help in knowing ahead of time what parties will be planned and what menu might be offered at those parties; this will allow you to send an alternative treat for your child on that date.