Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Safety or Singling Out? Managing a Coeliac in School.

So, Alex has started big school. She loves it, is making friends and enjoys learning. I am re-learning English using the phonics method and am quite shocked at how difficult a language it actually is. 'Because it just is' has sadly become my stock response to 'why is it pronounced that way mummy?'. 

On a gluten front things have been interesting to say the least. School is trying hard, but I suspect managing a child with Coeliac's, particularly in relation to school dinners, has been a steep learning curve for them. 

First off, on the first day, the usual chef was unfortunately off (not planned) so I had to rush home and pull together a packed lunch when the substitute chef was uncertain that she could pull off a GF meal. ('We could do salad but can't really guarantee anything else'- not quite the hot meal I had envisaged.)

When she was back I met with the school chef, who was very kind and accommodating. She had not catered for a Coeliac child before (there was apparently another child with Coeliac's in the school, but they were sticking to sandwiches until they saw how things panned out- sensible!) however, she had a relative with the condition, so had some understanding. She asked me to bring in some staples which I could get on prescription, which took me off the fence re the use of prescription food (see previous post). Having agreed what adjustments the chef could make, she told me we would also have to meet with a representative from the council (who subsidise school meals) who would go through everything we had discussed again. (Great use of time for a working mum, I love duplicate meetings). In any case, I was really encouraged by the school's response and the fact they were willing to cater for my child. And then the chef told me about the sash. I didn't really think about the implications of the sash until later when I was reflecting on the meeting and the positiveness of the school. 
'All of our allergy children have different colour sashes depending on what they need to avoid' -they what?-' yep, orange will be for coeliacs, purple for nuts, a different colour for dairy etc etc'.
On the surface, this makes sense- everyone who's serving the children food knows that they have to double check what they can/ can't have. In terms of social inclusion/ not singling children out/ highlighting difference- not so good! 

Does it work? Well, we're nearly at the end of term 1 and have had 2 gluten accidents so far. School aren't sure that they were they cause- there were stomach bugs going around. Given the time lines, symptoms and recovery rate, I'm pretty sure school had a (significant) role to play.( I also find it highly unlikely that all of their fish fingers are gluten free, as we were told, given the variation in price between GF and bog standard fish fingers, but if they say so! )

How and ever, it's always a learning curve when it comes to feeding a Coeliac, so I'm prepared to accept a few transgressions while they're learning the ropes (although poor Alexandra has paid the price). In the actual class room, the teachers have been very good at checking ingredients with me for food based activities, only giving appropriate treats and ensuring other children don't 'share' food. Hopefully things will continue to improve.

And with regards the sash- Alex thinks it's wonderful and makes her feel special, so who am I to argue for integration and social inclusion at this point- long may her pride in her difference continue!

Post Script: My husband read this post and wants me to point out the he stepped in and attended the meeting with the person from the council- he's very supportive!!


  1. Mit Zöliakie unterwegs zu sein ist nicht einfach! Ich staune wie die Schule sich gut organisiert. 2 Gluten-Unfälle sind zwar für dein Kind keine gute Erfahrung, aber in einer grossen Schule empfinde ich es als grosse Leistung.
    Meine Zöliakie Kinder kommen nach Hause um zu essen. Die Lehrer haben keine Bereitschaft irgend etwas glutenfrei anzubieten...

    1. Hi Manuela, Es ist eine Schande, dass die Schule nicht für Ihre Kinder gerecht zu werden, muss es umständlich sein, für sie zu Hause für jede Mahlzeit zu kommen. Auch, wie immer mehr Kinder mit Zöliakie diagnostiziert wird, wird die Schule nicht in der Lage zu helfen. Es ist gut zu wissen, wie glücklich wir sind hier!