Handling a Special Diet at School
Handling a Special Diet at School
One of the most commonly asked questions that I get is, “How can I control what my child eats at school”? It might take a little bit of work from you, but it can be done successfully with the assistance of school personnel and teachers.
First off, you MUST get your child’s special dietary needs written into his or her IEP or 504. This way the law will be on your side to keep your child safe. As children get older, if your child is fully included in middle and high school, the teachers have more and more typical children and more and more children with IEP’s and 504’s in their classrooms. They often lack the time to truly read and remember the details of your child’s plan. What I suggest is to contact the teacher via email prior to school starting, or during the first week of school, with an email spelling out details of the IEP or 504. Highlight the food issue information. This is imperative. Sadly, many teachers give food especially candy, as rewards. You might find some teachers kind enough to contact you and ask what your child can eat. We have been fortunate to have teachers along the way actually purchase snacks for my son. If the teacher does not offer this service, please make sure you purchase special treats for your child for the teacher to keep in the classroom or, if permissible, frozen treats, secured and marked with your child’s name, to be kept in the freezer at school.
For pre-school and elementary school teachers, arrange a time to meet (or send an email) explaining your child’s dietary needs in detail before school starts.
All schools have events, parties and other activities often, especially in elementary school. Try to obtain a list of food related events so you can have a carbon copy available of a safe food for your child. Ask the teacher for a list of all of the children’s birthdays in class. This way you can mark them on your calendar and always be prepared with a safe treat for your child. You never want your child to feel left out. Sometimes it is a great idea to make your child’s snack be something extra special; so they can have the other children be envious, as apposed to being “odd man out.”
When it is your child’s birthday, prepare a snack that your child can enjoy, share, and pass out to the classmates. You might be surprised that most children will equally enjoy what your child is distributing. Another alternative to food prizes is to suggest to the teacher to purchase some toys at a dollar store or via an online catalog company, where you can buy a ton for a small amount of money. Some teachers purchase toys as rewards or treats, they pass out tickets worth a certain amount of points. Once a week or month, a teacher can then have “shopping time”. Kids can use their tickets to purchase items marked with the ticket amount needed. Not only does this method avoid the food problem, it teaches children many lessons.
When schools have bake sales or events where the parents are invited to donate a treat, why not prepare a special treat using the same ingredients you would use to make your child’s special treat? Secure the product in a tightly sealed package, labeled with the list of ingredients and what the food is free of. It might be wise in include your name and phone number or email address, so that the parents purchasing the item can be reassured that the treat is safe. If you are not up to baking, think about some typically allergy free foods such as tangerines, apples or other fruits, for the child who cannot tolerate the normal foods sold at bake sales. You might be surprised that some kids actually prefer a healthy snack to some of the junk foods sold at those events. Another option is to contact some of the food companies that you often purchase specialized foods from for your child and ask them for some free samples. Often they will send you small, individually wrapped goodies. You can donate the small samples and offer safe choices for children with special dietary needs. This is a good way for the company to get some promotion for their products, too! It is also a great way to display awareness for those visiting the events.
More Special Diets
- Self-Advocating While on a Special Diet
- Focus on Color
- Traveling with Special Dietary Need
- Eating out While on a Special Diet
- Staying Healthy with a Proper Diet
- Family Adventures in the Summer: Special Diets Don’t Have to Stop the Fun
- Eating Breakfast When You Are on a Special Diet
- Special Diets Do Not Need to Break the Bank!
- Special Diets: Food Allergies
- Gift Ideas for Those on Special Diets
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2011 Magazine
Barrie is the author of The Autism & ADHD Diet: A Step-by-Step Guide To Hope and Healing by Living Gluten Free and Casein Free (GFCF) And Other Interventions Her web site is: www.puttingyourkidsfirst.com