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Making "Back to School" Healthy and Gluten Free for Children with Celiac Disease
For families of children with celiac disease, the excitement of a new school year can be tempered by uncertainty. Parents, health care providers, and school staff all play important roles in the planning—and team approach—needed to ensure children stay healthy and gluten free at school.
Physicians can provide valuable advice and guidance to school staff members who may be unfamiliar with celiac disease. A letter or phone call from a physician to the school principal or nurse can explain what celiac disease is and discuss a child’s special dietary needs. Physicians also can encourage families to make regular follow-up appointments during the school year to help parents make sure children are maintaining gluten-free diets and staying healthy. More information about how health care providers can help is available at www.celiac.nih.gov/BacktoSchool.aspx.
Parents can also work with school personnel—classroom teachers, the principal, the school nurse, and the cafeteria manager—to ensure that requisite staff are aware of the student’s needs. Although in-person visits may not be possible during the hectic first weeks of school year planning, letters or prepared notes can explain the important steps in maintaining a gluten-free school environment. Celiac support groups provide sample letters that parents can give to teachers, principals, and other key school staff members. Sample letters and other back-to-school resources are available at the Celiac Support Association's Getting Along at School .
School personnel need to be made aware that “gluten free” is not limited to cafeteria meals or classroom snacks; gluten is also found in nonfood items including popular brands of clay, crayons, pastes, and paints. A discussion of school activities that may expose a child to gluten is at www.gluten.net .
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Page last updated September 24, 2014