Gluten Schmuten: Back To School Edition (Plus a Letter to the Teacher)

GLUTENSCHUMUTENThe Al Dente blog is going to work through the good and the bad of gluten-free living from the perspective of a toddler known for her picky eating and her parents. We’ll collect these, as well as the rest of our journey with The Kid’s Celiac disease diagnosis, under the Gluten Schmuten category tag.

In the Greater Syracuse, N.Y. area, school starts right after Labor Day. Since The Wife is a teacher, this means The Kid’s return to full-time third-party childcare starts sooner than most. Making matters worse interesting this year is the fact that The Kid is starting at a new school (Side note: She went to a daycare center that provided very good hands-on care but is an administrative mess. They are accommodating, but not much more, in terms of her gluten free needs. For a week straight, she was given a corn tortilla at lunch because GF bread is expensive. And she gets a lot of cookies at snack. On one hand, I understand that this stuff is expensive to buy for one child. On the other hand, it’s my kid and I don’t really give a shit about your profit margin when I pay the same $180 a week as everyone else.).

Starting a new school means introducing a new set of people to The Kid’s condition and what to keep an eye out for; the beginning of a 15-year journey of beginning of the year notes. The Wife was going to write a letter to the teachers at her new nursery school, but decided to hit Google for some samples. She found one and adapted it for The Kid. I’m reposting it so that others can take advantage.

Download the GF Letter for Children’s Schoolteacher [Word doc]

To: Teacher
CC: School Health Nurse
Re: [insert child’s name]

[insert child’s name] is happy to be in your class this year at Holy Family. Before the school year begins, I wanted to alert you to the fact that [insert child’s name] has Celiac Disease.  Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by ingesting gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malt, and sometimes oats. [insert child’s name] is actually very healthy, but she must manage Celiac Disease with a strict adherence to a gluten-free diet. It is very important to her health that she remains gluten free. Since we are not yet familiar with the procedures for activities and food in your class, I am providing this information to you in order for [insert child’s name] to avoid any possible contact with gluten while in your class.

We will provide [insert child’s name] with a gluten-free lunch and snack everyday. She is well aware of her condition, and understands that she cannot trade snacks or eat any other food without first confirming with an adult that it is gluten-free.  [insert child’s name] typically does well with her food restrictions, but as a three year old she will need to be reminded and helped during the year. Any product with WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE, MALT or OATS on its ingredient list is off limits. She must also avoid any products that indicate a possible cross contamination with the same as above, such as “made in a facility that also processes WHEAT.” If you are not sure about a food and its ingredients, please do not allow [insert child’s name] to have it.

[insert child’s name] does not get a reaction just from touching gluten, however if it gets on her hands and fingers it could be transferred to her mouth. Craft products like play dough and pasta almost always contain wheat. 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 [insert child’s name] with a suitable substitution. If [insert child’s name] does accidentally come into contact with gluten at school, I ask that you immediately have her wash her hands thoroughly. She does not have an allergic response, such as anaphylaxis, so no medicine or medical attention is required. 

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, [insert child’s name] can bring a gluten-free alternative in order to celebrate with the other students. If it works better for you, I can provide you with a small box or bag of safe, gluten-free treats to store in the classroom for [insert child’s name].

I want to make it as easy as possible for you and [insert child’s name] this year. If you are not comfortable determining what is and is not gluten-free, then please email me about any food products being offered to her during class activities. This would include food craft projects, birthday celebrations, holiday celebrations, field trips, class rewards, etc. If, for some reason you are unable to reach me, then I ask that you do not allow [insert child’s name] to eat any food that did not come from our home.

For your information, I have enclosed documents that provide more detailed information about Celiac Disease.  I would be happy to meet with you and/or the school nurse to review the situation and discuss any questions or concerns you may have about it. I know as a teacher you have a lot of students and responsibilities, and I appreciate your time and attention to the matter.

Thank you,

[parents name(s)]

Note from [insert child’s name]’s doctor

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