If you are preparing to write an IEP or 504 plan for your child, you’ve found the right article. IEPs can be a little intimidating, but so important to include everything that is needed.
An IEP for a gluten free child should include information about celiac disease or another medical diagnosis that requires them to avoid eating gluten, a plan for meals and snacks, bathroom access, art project accommodations, extracurricular activities accommodations, communication, emergency evacuation, parental notification, and emergency contacts. Source
This may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t need to be. I talked to someone who helps advocate for students with IEP and helps parents write the IEPs so their children are supported. He said that the biggest thing parents don’t know about is their rights as a parent of a child with an IEP.
What Needs To Be On An IEP For A Gluten Free Or Celiac Child?
I want to start off by reassuring you. I was exactly where you are now: researching before my first IEP meeting. After a long and quite drawn-out process, I have learned more about IEPs and the process of creating them than I ever wanted to know.
While there is a lot of information out there on how to write a 504 for a child with Celiac Disease or Gluten Intolerance, I struggled to find relevant information for an IEP.
What Is The Difference Between A 504 And IEP
Let’s get this one out of the way before we go further.
A child can qualify for a 504 if they have a qualifying medical diagnosis. An IEP on the other hand is for children who have medical, developmental, or intellectual conditions that prevent them from accessing their education without significant interventions. These could be Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, a dedicated aid, and the list goes on infinitely because it is specific to the child.
What Needs To Be On An IEP For A Gluten Free Or Celiac Child?
Things that should be included on an IEP or 504 plan specific to Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease:
- Information about their medical condition
- Meals and snacks
- Bathroom access
- Art and other project accommodations
- Accommodations for extra curriculur activities and field trips
- Emergency information
- Anything else you think is important
Jerry Gasiewicz, MS, a service coordinator with Direction Services was kind enough to answer some questions for me. He said that the most important thing he wants to convey is that parents should know what their rights are when they are writing the IEP.
Anything written in the IEP is something that can be enforced. Due to this, schools prefer to write down as little as possible. But as a parent, you are able to include anything you want. You are your child’s best advocate. If a school refuses to allow something you want to be included in the IEP, insist they record their refusal.
When the IEP is done being written, check it over and make sure everything is as you want it. You can request to have a couple of days to look it over before signing it. I personally find this to be helpful as these meetings can be long and emotional.
What Information About Celiac Disease Should Be On An IEP?
If your child is on an IEP, they likely have already been diagnosed with multiple disabilities. It is important to write information about each disability in the IEP for anyone unfamiliar with it.
This doesn’t need to be in-depth and can be in your own words. If you would like a longer explanation, this sample document has it written out.
In this section, you should include provisions about training for all staff that has daily interactions with your child. Specify what gluten is, where it comes from, and where it can be found.
You can specify the information they need to be taught. This should also include mention of nonfood instances where gluten is present, such as art projects.
You can also specify your child’s reactions and the care that should be taken.
Jerry pointed out that if your child does not have Celiac Disease or other diagnoses requiring a gluten free diet, it may not be enough for a 504. However, if your child is on an IEP, you have more rights on what to include.
What You Should Include About Meals And Snacks On The IEP
When it came to accommodations for meals and snacks, I personally chose to have a clause here that he is never allowed to eat anything that has not been sent from home. For me, this was the easiest way to guarantee that he would not be getting gluten accidentally.
However, I know this may not be an option for everyone.
This is what the Celiac Disease Foundation has set as the recommendation if the student will be getting food prepared by the school.
You should also include something about cleaning the space the child will be eating at to make sure it has no crumbs or other contamination.
Make sure to include a requirement that the staff notifies you at least 24 hours in advance of any special event with food so you can provide a suitable alternative. I’d also suggest providing the school with some treats that can easily be frozen and thawed for these events.
What You Should Include About Bathroom Access On The IEP
Include information about how your child reacts to gluten including gastrointestinal issues.
Even if your child has not had these symptoms, I recommend including a statement that gastrointestinal issues are a known reaction to gluten.
Every child who needs to avoid gluten should have unlimited access to the bathroom in case exposure happens.
What Class Project Accommodations Should Be Included On The IEP?
Put in a provision that teachers advise parents at least 24 hours in advance when products with gluten will be used in the classroom for projects. You can decide if you will provide an alternative, allow them to use the gluten products, or if they should have an alternative.
One accommodation needs to be access to washing hands after activities containing gluten if you decide to allow them to use gluten containing products. Even if they are not using the products containing gluten, they should have access to wash any cross contamination from other students off their hands.
It is typical that classrooms will only use hand sanitizer, but it does not get rid of gluten. Hand sanitizer gets rid of germs and as gluten is a protein, it will not work. You may want to include an explanation of this in the IEP.
What Accommodations For Extra Curricular Activities Or Field Trips Should Be On The IEP?
There should be accommodations in this section to notify the parents at least 24 hours in advance of any extracurricular activities or field trips that have a food component or other gluten-containing exposure.
This will give you an opportunity to provide a suitable alternative for them.
What Information For Communication Should Be On The IEP
This section will be about communication within the school and with the parents.
Make sure you include that their diagnosis should be kept private. They should be under other requirements to keep this information private, but it’s good to include it on this document just in case it needs to be enforced.
Include a section about the school and instructors providing reasonable communication with the parents. Especially in regards to when food or gluten will be present in an activity, but also when there may be questionable ingredients or products.
I have found that in practice it is best to keep a good relationship with the teacher so they feel open to asking questions about gluten. Teachers have texted me with product labels asking if they are gluten free for an activity they are about to do.
The other piece about communication should be when the student gets new teachers. This includes the beginning of the year, a change mid-year, or substitute teachers throughout the year. Each new instructor should be provided with a copy of the IEP with information on gluten free or Celiac Disease at the forefront.
This can be an issue with IEPs because they can get long and tiresome to read. By design, they are comprehensive. But when you have a substitute coming in for a day, they may not be able to read it all. Make sure the gluten free points are highlighted for them because one day may not be much for them, but for a child who gets exposed to gluten it can be miserable and dangerous.
What Emergency Information Should Be Included On The IEP For Gluten Free Students?
You should make sure the IEP states that the plan is still in place during an emergency situation.
In case of a shelter-in-place notice, a 3 day supply of non-perishable gluten free food should be available to the school. This usually comes in handy at other times of the year as well.
What Other Information Is Important To Include In An IEP For Gluten Free Students?
The simple answer to this question: anything you think is important.
This can be frustrating, but remember that your child is unique and individual. For my child, I would include information about how he can’t have oats or food dye either.
You may want to include unique symptoms you have noticed happen to your child. Especially if this is a dangerous reaction like hives. Having teachers watch for signs of gluten exposure could save you a lot of worries and help you get prepared. I’ve also found that they are more cautious when they see how serious of a reaction this will be.
An IEP is all about individualizing their school experience. So feel free to add anything you think is important to your IEP.
Remember when you are reading any information about gluten free 504 plans, IEPs can be very different. As a parent, you have more rights.
The best advice is to request a copy of your parental rights before your meeting and actually read it.
If you have access to a service like Direction Services utilize them. An advocate that knows your rights and how IEPs work can be your most valuable tool.