Children and teenagers with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity probably realize they need to beware of gluten foods in the school cafeteria. But gluten-y school lunch food is far from the only school issue they'll face on their journey from preschool to high school graduation.
Along the way, they'll need to cope with school birthday parties, flour-based crafts and science experiments, and possibly a bit of brain fog interfering with their school work if they accidentally get glutened.
There's no reason to think your gluten-sensitive child or teen won't have a very positive experience in school. However, you'll probably need to do some extra work in the early years, and he or she likely will need to take some special precautions during high school.
Here's what to expect, and how you and your child can cope with celiac disease and gluten intolerance in school.
Preschool Through Third Grade
Young children in school those in preschool and in the first couple of elementary school grades may not have a full understanding of what they can and can't eat yet (although many do understand, and will tell you in great detail).
These children need to learn to deal with their gluten-eating peers in a way that keeps them safe. At the same time, their parents will need to work with teachers to protect their children from craft projects that use gluten, and to coordinate birthday party snacks so that their children don't feel left out.
It takes some work to make sure school is safe and enjoyable for young children with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, but supportive school officials and teachers can help significantly.
More on school issues for younger children:
- Celiac Disease and Young School Children: Six Tips for Coping
- Preparing the School for Your Newly Diagnosed Child
- Creating a 504 Plan for Your Gluten-Free Child
Older Children Late Elementary School Through Middle School
Once children enter late elementary school, they likely will understand quite well what they can and can't eat. However, peer pressure starts to come into play at this point, and children often are acutely conscious of how "different" they appear to their friends and classmates at school.
Add in frequent school parties and projects that involve gluten (think: home economics baking classes), and parents still have plenty of shoals to navigate, for which they'll still need support from teachers and school administrators.
More on school issues in late elementary and middle school/junior high school:
- Celiac Disease in Elementary and Middle Schools: Tips for Coping
- School Cafeteria Lunches for Gluten-Free Kids?
Celiac and Gluten Intolerant Teenagers at School How To Stay Safe
Once celiac or gluten-sensitive children grow into teenagers, they're ready to take on most of the responsibility for managing their own health and diet. Their parents will continue to have some influence, but school events, after-school jobs and teenage social lives will mean that they'll need to do the majority of work themselves to stay safe.
Unfortunately, teens also have ample opportunity to deviate from the diet, either accidentally and intentionally ... and some choose to do so intentionally, especially if they don't experience severe symptoms. However, cheating or accidentally ingesting gluten can spell academic trouble for celiac and gluten intolerant teens.
More on school issues in high school: