Going Back to School Gluten-Free, Worry-Free

I’ve spent the past few weeks at my parents’ house in the suburbs, taking nice long walks with Jake. He’s my brother’s dog, and the closest thing to grandchildren our parents are likely to have in the foreseeable future.

Jake and I like to walk down to my old elementary school, and last week we noticed that big pre-Labor Day change: The parking lot was full and the teachers were there, construction paper and markers in hand, readying up their classrooms for the incoming students. It’s back-to-school time.

My first walk to this school? We had just moved to town, and it was the first day of fourth grade. It was also my birthday, which is why I affixed a pin that said, “It’s My Birthday” to my tucked-in denim shirt (worn with jeans, natch). The only thing I remember about the day – aside from my awesome outfit – is that I forgot my lunch and had to eat some PB&J the cafeteria kept on hand for absent-minded little girls like me.

lunchboxesAt the time, it wasn’t a problem: the concept of gluten intolerance was as foreign to me as the Internet. And cell phones. Given the ever-increasing number of school-age kids who can’t eat gluten now, though, I started to wonder. If you’re a student – or the parent of one – how do you cope with gluten-free back-to-school?

Is your child the only gluten-free student in class, or are you able to join forces with other parents? What is your back-to-school gluten-free protocol? At what age do you trust your child to safely monitor his or her own diet?

Since I have more questions than answers, I’ve pulled together some links from people more expert than me.

  • ROCK (Raising Our Celiac Kids) is a gluten-free support group with a number of local chapters, and founder Danna Korn is a well-respected voice on gluten-free issues.
  • The Children’s Hospital Boston covers gluten-free students from preschool to college.
  • The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ article on navigating the school system gives an overview of the sort of help your gluten-free child may be entitled to.
  • Gluten-Free Mom has some great ideas for gluten-free school lunches and party treats, and even a sample letter for the teacher.
  • We’ve also touched on the subject a few times in the past; you may want to look at our posts on gluten-free school lunches or pick up our gluten-free grocery guide to see what other options are available.
  • A Labor Day surprise! Amazon.com has put quite a few gluten-free snack foods on sale this month. Some of the discount codes are only valid until September 11, though, so if you see something you like you may want to act quickly.

I hope those links are helpful, but I’m also eager to hear about your experiences. Whether parent or student, what is back-to-school time like for you?

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