Going Gluten-FreeApril 6, 2010

Preschool

I recently toured a preschool on behalf of my 20-month-old daughter. I’m looking to enroll her in a program that starts next fall but it turns out I’m way behind. I made the rookie-parent mistake of applying too late and landed on the waiting list. However, the preschool kindly invited me for a tour in case a spot opened.

As I walked with two other mothers through colorful classrooms dotted with artwork and cubby holes neatly filled with toy dinosaurs and dress-up clothes, I honed in on the miniature chairs surrounding an equally miniature table with a snack laid out--goldfish, pretzels and nilla wafers. Gluten!

Here it was, the first time I had to face the fact that my daughter would be plunged into a gluten-filled world--without me managing it.

Before I could inquire about snack time and special diets, another mom on the tour spoke up.

“How do you handle food allergies? My daughter has a severe egg and dairy allergy.”

I wanted to hug her. It was such a relief that other prospective parents at this preschool had similar concerns. The director explained that the school was quite comfortable handling special diets. Teachers are made aware of food restrictions and are equipped to administer epi injections, if necessary. In addition, the preschool is nut free, and those children with special diets typically bring in their own snacks.

I liked this last part. I could still send her off with a safe gluten-free snack and expect the teacher to keep tabs on her–making sure she eats her own food and doesn’t trade up. The arrangement sounded like the perfect, toddler-size step toward food independence–for both of us.

Now she just needs to get into this preschool. We’re number 11 on the waiting list.

Comments (1)

I have a two year old with Celiac and found that the staff was well equipped to handle her special needs. Although she is the first diagnosed Celiac at their daycare, the staff, including the cook, was well adept at handling cooking for children with allergies. I get the menu a week ahead of time (it is a 6 week rotating menu, but changes are made due to availablilty of items when shopping), so that I can prep what I need. I often bring in substitute ingredients and the cook incorporates them into the menu plan. She always makes my daughter's meals first and then keeps her food separate. The teachers also know to serve her food first, and they always use new utensils for serving. The teachers, with my help, wrote a letter to all the parents explaining my daughter's disease and asked them to notify me ahead of time if they were planing on bringing treats for the class so that I could bring in a GF version. Our daycare allows us to bring in homemade food, but only to serve to our own children (can't bring in homemade snacks/treats for the class). I was so touched when another mom made gluten free brownies for her own daughter's birthday treat to share with everyone, but they were unable to serve it because it needs to be either be made on sight or from a commercial bakery.

The teachers are all aware of cross contamination issues and do their best to make sure Sarah isn't exposed to gluten. They have also researched the art supplies (finger paint, stamp ink, etc which often contain hidden gluten) to make sure it was safe for my daughter. I have given the daycare a copy of the book "How I Eat Without Wheat" by Karen Fine, which is an excellent book to share with her classroom about Celiac disease, without using the word "disease" and making it seem like it is scary. Now the kids in her class know that she gets special food, that they are not to touch her food, and honestly... they are all alot better about handling it then I was! I hope that elementary school will be as accomodating!

Posted by: Ami F | April 15, 2010 2:55 PM    Report this comment

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