6 Simple Steps to Prepare Your Child with Special Dietary Needs For Back to School
When my son was diagnosed with a disorder affecting his diet, I didn’t know what to do at first.
Halfway through his 1st grade school year, my son was diagnosed with Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID), a disorder which causes the body to not properly digest certain sugars. This new diagnosis had me scrambling to find sugar-free meals and snacks to pack for school lunches, informing the school staff of my son’s condition, and drilling into my son’s head to not accept food from other kids. Because my situation wasn’t an isolated one as there are many other children with special dietary restrictions (gluten, nuts, dairy etc.), I was somewhat confident I could navigate the rest of the school year with ease but it was a lot tougher than I had hoped. Knowing what I do now, the transition could have been easier.
For those parents who are facing or will face a similar situation as myself, I recommend these six simple steps which will help you and your child with special dietary needs face the school year with ease. Here are 6 Simple Steps to Prepare Your Child with Special Dietary Needs For Back to School:
Get a Doctor’s Note
According to the Clark County School District policy, parents with students who require special diets due to a severe or life-threatening food allergy or intolerance must fill out a Medical Statement to Request a Special Diet. For those students who purchase lunch in the cafeteria, this is a must. You can download this form here.
Since I pack my son’s lunch, I did not fill out the form but instead asked his doctor to write his own statement about my son’s condition so at least the school staff was aware of his dietary restrictions. It’s always a good idea to have a doctor’s note on file.
Know Your School Nurse
It’s a good idea to introduce yourself and your student to the school nurse. Make sure he or she has your direct number and you have his or hers. My son’s nurse is always in constant contact with me because he does take medication at lunchtime so it helps that we have a direct line to one another. If there is a classroom snack she’s not sure my son can have, she will call me. Simple as that.
Purchase a Medical Bracelet
One of the first things I did when my son was newly diagnosed was purchase a medical or food allergy awareness bracelet. Since there are classroom helpers, PTO members and other staff who may not be familiar with my son and his condition, I felt better about having him wear a bracelet that basically says “NO SUGAR!”. I let him pick it out since he’s the one who has to wear it and it turns out the bracelet was a great conversation starter with kids who he never spoke with before.
Amazon.com sells the Allerbling Food Allergy Awareness Bracelet that allows the parent to indicate more than one food allergy since it’s common now for children to have more than one.
Make Sure the Teacher is Aware
Since teachers allow food in the classrooms for birthdays, holiday parties and rewards, it’s vital that you make sure your child’s teacher is fully aware of your son or daughter’s dietary restrictions. I made the mistake of leaving my son’s teacher out of the loop and was horrified to learn she was giving him candy when he got an answer right during the “math games”. Fortunately, my son knew better and just threw the candy in his backpack. I ended up providing the teacher with stickers to reward my son in lieu of candy and packing “sugar alternatives” whenever there was a classroom party involving food.
Talk to Your Child
It is imperative you talk to your child about what he or she cannot eat. I sat my son down and explained to him why he can’t have certain foods anymore. He knows to not accept food from anyone including his friends unless he receives permission from the nurse or teacher.
Make Lunch Fun
Since my son has to take medication with his meals, I always pack his lunch. With his Darth Vader lunch box being void of Twinkies and Capri Suns, I tried to make his lunch fun to make up for the “boring” food. How was I able to do this? I started off by just purchasing really cool containers for crackers and berries. This school year, I’m going to pack bento boxes to add a little more variety.
Check out this really great Bento Lunches for School Kids article we posted back in April. It’s full of great tips and ideas for making bento boxes for your child’s school lunch.
Do you have a school-aged child with special dietary needs? Tell us about your experiences.