Back to School with Celiac Canada

The kids are back for the winter and spring semesters. 

Follow these guidelines to keep them safe and empower them to advocate for themselves.  Packed full of tips, recipes, and more! Like a good lunch box. 

Successfully Navigating Celiac Disease

Growing up celiac presents many challenges for our children. Use this guidebook to educate your child’s teachers and classmates so you can have a worry-free new school year.

What’s normal for most kids can be a minefield of uncertainty for kids with celiac disease. School lunches, social gatherings, and classroom celebrations for starters. But educating other kids and teachers goes a long way to making sure cross-contamination and accidentally eating gluten doesn’t happen.

Fear of contamination can make kids feel anxious and isolated. We can help kids feel like they safely belong by turning them into passionate advocates for celiac awareness, promoting understanding and inclusion for those living with the condition.

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Top 5 Classroom Tips

  1. Plan Ahead: Before any special occasion involving food, discuss the event and food arrangements with the teacher in advance. Ask if you can be involved in the planning process to ensure gluten-free options are available. 
  2. Stash Treats: Have a bag of gluten-free treats your child loves in the teacher’s desk to be used anytime. There’ll always be something your child can eat without worry so they feel included.
  3. Read Labels: If the school provides snacks or treats, check labels to ensure they’re gluten-free.
  4. Educate Classmates: Encourage the teacher to conduct a simple education session with the class about celiac disease. This raises awareness and fosters empathy among classmates.
  5. Teach Your Child Advocacy: Encourage your child to politely decline any treats they’re unsure about and to inform the teacher if they are offered something that contains gluten. Empowering them to speak up for their needs can boost their confidence and help keep them safe.

Easy Snack Time Recipes

Stuck on what to make for lunches? Look no further! Try these Nairn’s gluten-free oat cracker recipes for back to school! For a filling snack, make this Easy and Quick Hummus, and for dessert, make the No Bake Gluten-Free Cookie Bars. 

Nairn’s Oat Crackers are individually wrapped so perfect for go-anywhere snacks free from cross-contamination. 

Hot Lunch Programs

Strategies to ensure your child’s safety.

  • Contact hot lunch providers to ask how they manage gluten-free menu items for students. Advise on changing methods if necessary. 
  •  Get involved with the hot lunch program to help curate safe sources of gluten-free menu items.
  •  Pizza days are particularly risky for cross-contamination. Consider packing gluten-free pizza or dropping one off for your child’s lunch. 
  • Talk to your child. Hot lunches are not always safe. Help them understand the risks and set up something special for them, so they don’t feel left out.

Cooking Classes

Airborne flour can be an issue for people with celiac disease. It may not be safe for your child to join in cooking classes. 

  • At the beginning of the year, ask your child’s teacher if there are any classes in the curriculum. 
  • Ask if recipes could be adapted to be safe for your child, or whether another recipe could be substituted.

10 Ways to Empower Your Child.

Empowering a child with celiac disease is crucial for navigating life confidently and independently, while managing their condition effectively. 

Use these strategies to empower your child to build confidence and learn to speak up for themselves. 

  1.  Education and Understanding: Educate your child about celiac in an age-appropriate manner. Help them understand what gluten is, how it affects their body, and why a gluten-free diet is essential. Empower them to make informed decisions about their health.
  2. Open Communication: Encourage discussion about your child’s feelings and experiences related to celiac. Listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and provide support. Make them feel comfortable discussing any challenges they face due to their condition.
  3. Advocate Together: Teach your child how to advocate for themselves and their dietary needs. Role-play different scenarios, so they know how to communicate with teachers, friends, and other adults about celiac disease and the importance of avoiding gluten.
  4. Involve Them in Food Choices: Take your child grocery shopping and involve them in choosing gluten-free foods they enjoy.
  5. Cooking Skills: Encourage your child to learn basic cooking/baking skills. Kids who cook, eat better, and learn a life-long skill making their own GF meals and treats.
  6. Teach Label Reading: Teach your child how to read food labels to identify gluten-containing ingredients as soon as they’re able so they can make safe choices when choosing packaged foods.
  7. Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate successes. Positive reinforcement boosts your child’s confidence and motivates them to continue making healthy choices.
  8. Lead by Example: If you or other family members also follow a gluten-free diet, model healthy behaviors and attitudes towards food. Emphasize that a gluten-free lifestyle can be enjoyable and fulfilling.
  9. Focus on Strengths: Building a strong sense of self-worth will help them face challenges with resilience.
  10. Celebrate Differences: Emphasize that everyone is unique and that having celiac disease is just one aspect of who they are.

Safety Plan: Cross Contamination at School

If contamination happens, what should you do? Have a game plan.

  • Don’t worry. A single gluten exposure is not linked with an increased likelihood of long-term complications.
  • Tell a safe person. Train your child to tell their teacher, classroom aid, or office they’re not feeling well.
  • Call home. Depending on the child’s reaction, the school may wish to call home. Ensure your contact information is up to date.
  • Plan B. Have a plan for your child if they need to come home.
  • Plan C. If your child does not need to come home, instruct the school that water and rest are best.
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Letters to take to school

Send your child to school with a letter and brochure that explains the do’s and don’ts of celiac to teachers who may have never heard of it. 

Back to School on Social Media

Facebook group: Join the CCA’s Facebook group and connect with parents experienced in raising a child with celiac disease.  

Tune into our social media channels in September for tips and tricks from our team, our community and favourite influencers to make this the best gluten-free back-to-school ever!

Back to School Videos

Packed full of helpful hints, watch to get ready for the big day back. 

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