Back to school with celiac disease

Courtesy National Foundation for Celiac Awareness

girl eating a peach

photo courtesy Bruce Tuten

Getting back into an everyday routine, purchasing school supplies, and even convincing your little one that beach days are over can be a daunting task. For parents of children with celiac disease, the thrill of back-to-school can be more challenging.

According to Alice Bast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) and an expert on celiac disease and the gluten-free lifestyle, “There are thousands of parents of school age children who have to learn to deal with their child’s celiac disease – an autoimmune digestive disorder triggered by the consumption of gluten – and make sure that they understand the implications of their medical condition and how they can manage this easily in a school environment.”

Every parent wants their child to make healthy food choices, but what if a cracker or a single bite of a chocolate chip cookie could make a child violently ill? The gluten-free diet is challenging at any age, but it can be especially hard on children. Food is social, and gluten-free kids often miss out on the moments their peers take for granted, such as eating a cupcake or pizza to celebrate a classmate’s birthday and trading lunches with a friend in the cafeteria. “It’s more than just food,” Bast said. “The gluten-free diet really is a lifestyle, so it can affect children’s confidence and their emotional and social health, too.”

Children with celiac disease must learn early about the health implications of their condition, and parents need to have an open conversation with them. They should reiterate that it is okay for their child to say “No, thank you.”

The number one goal for parents and school staff is to keep children gluten-free in school cafeterias, after-school activities and classroom parties. Bast recommends that parents meet with the staff prior to the school year starting so they can have a conversation about their child’s medical condition and the foods and items that must be avoided.

Fortunately, there are many gluten-free alternatives that can supplement kids’ favorite foods, and they are growing in popularity, such as gluten-free cookies, cupcakes, pasta, pretzels, crackers and gummy snacks. Some schools have even introduced gluten-free pizza for lunch.  School arts and crafts also pose a concern for gluten-free children. Many non-food items can contain gluten, including some types of clay, paints and glues. How do parents handle this? One idea from NFCA is for parents to get a list of supplies needed from the school and then provide safe alternatives to keep in the child’s art supply box. If crafts involve pasta, parents can supply the school with gluten-free pasta in a variety of shapes and sizes, giving careful instruction to keep these items separate from the gluten-containing supplies.

Education is key. Parents may also opt to discuss celiac disease with the students in their child’s classroom so they can learn about the condition and understand why a child with celiac disease cannot eat cupcakes or share their lunch. Most importantly, parents can emphasize that there are many things the child still can eat, and that he or she likes making friends and playing together just like everyone else. Children want to feel accepted and not different, so it is important for a parent to explain in simple terms that encourage kids to be welcoming rather than leave the child out.

“We usually tell children that everyone has a health limitation because nobody’s body is perfect,” said Marie-Nathalie Beaudoin, PhD, Training Director at Bay Area Family Therapy & Training Associates, Cupertino, Calif. “Some people wear glasses, others have a body that can’t run very well, and many have foods they don’t tolerate so well…Children with celiac disease are lucky to know about the needs of their body so young, because many people find out when they are adults and have complications.”

For additional coping strategies, NFCA recommends that parents read Gluten-Free Friends: An Activity Book for Kids, by Nancy Patin Falini, MA, RD, LDN, Kids with Celiac Disease: A Family Guide to Raising, Happy, Healthy Gluten-Free Children, by Danna Korn, and Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? by Katie Chalmers. The good news is that there is a greater understanding of celiac disease among school staff and a myriad of resources available at The foundation’s online hub also has a dedicated section called Kids Central where parents can find articles, advice and gluten-free snack suggestions.

Rod McDaniel Celiac Kids Camp

The deadline for registration is approaching…

The camp is Monday August 13, 2012 to Saturday August 18, 2012.



Rod McDaniel Celiac Kids Camp -August 13-18, 2012

This year the celiac kids camp will be at Camp Kindle (near Water Valley, AB)

This week of camp will offer the following:

  • Fully gluten free kitchen
  • Availability for children from 7 to 17
  • Camp will be open to all members in Alberta and siblings

Siblings are welcome, but please submit applications for each child separately.

Once payment is received, you will be sent a Parent Information Package and Registration form that will need to be returned to the office. Please email if you have further questions.


Rod McDaniel Celiac Kids Camp August 15-20, 2011

Courtesy Calgary Chapter

The annual Rod McDaniel Celiac Kids Camp registrations are going very well with the girl’s spots filling up quickly, and four spots remaining for boys ages 7-14. We will know by July 15 if any additional spots become available, as we have several children on a wait list.

For registration details and camp updates, visit our website at Details on the camp facility and activities can be found at This will be our 2nd year at Easter Seals Camp Horizon in Kananaskis Country and it promises to be another fun-filled camp at a wonderful facility with great activities and lots of delicious gluten-free food!

Thank you for your ongoing interest in possibly the only dedicated Celiac Kids Camp in Canada, and especially to Mr. Rod McDaniel for his ongoing support.

Sunday only! Gluten-free fun at Arion Therapeutic Farm

By Angela Petrie

I just wanted to tell everyone about a great event we attended today. It is a fundraiser this weekend from 10-3 on Saturday and Sunday at the Arion Therapeutic Farm. It is really cheap entertainment: tour the farm, pat the pot belly pigs, see the alpaca’s, donkeys and the pregnant goat with twins.

Then we went down and enjoyed hot chocolate, face painting, raffles, hot dogs, regular cookies and gluten-free cookies. The gingerbread men were also available gluten-free and dairy-free.

We sat on Santa’s knee and had pony rides. The atmosphere is electric and it was a tonne of fun! The girls saw so many kids they knew. It reminded me of the McMillan Pumpkin Patch.

It supports a great cause – they are fundraising for a whole bunch of things – but the main thing is it provides therapeutic riding for special needs. Click to read the full article about it in the Friday Capital News.

Hope you can all go, enjoy the animals, santa etc. and support a great cause!

Arion Therapeutic Farm is at 2457 Saucier Road in East Kelowna.

Rod McDaniel Celiac Kids Camp

Date :     July 5 – 10, 2010 (5 nights)
Ages:      7 – 13
Where :  Easter Seals Camp Horizon, Kananaskis Country (Alberta)

The Calgary Chapter is pleased to announce our 2010 Celiac Kids Camp and our new partnership with Easter Seals Camp Horizon, 40 minutes southwest of Calgary in the foothills of beautiful Kananaskis Country. A full-time staff will be on-site including a nurse.  We will have a Celiac Association representative at the camp all week with 2-3 volunteers as well.  Numbers are limited this year, so register early.

Early-bird Member Rate:  $210  (register by May 30, 2010)
After May 30:      $250

Non-member Early-bird Rate: $260 (register by May 30, 2010)
After May 30:  $300

The camp fees will be subsidized by Mr. Rod McDaniel, the Calgary Chapter Office and the Easter Seals.

Activities include: archery, ropes courses, climbing walls, giant swing, nature games, beach volleyball court, arts + crafts, hay rides

For more information or to receive a registration form, please contact the Calgary Chapter Office at 403-237-0304 or email:

Click the link below for a virtual tour of the camp.

August Celiac Family Picnic

Recently, several families got together at Sun-Oka Park in Summerland to have a Gluten Free BBQ on the beach. Families from Penticton, West Kelowna and Kelowna attended. The kids had a great time playing together and sharing a gluten free lunch; and it was a wonderful opportunity for families to get to know one another.

Thanks kids (Nikita, Kate, Allan, Julia and both Hannah’s) for a fun afternoon!

Plans are already in the works for another family event in the winter, if you missed out on the picnic and would like to receive information about upcoming family events please email ~ Heather (

Gluten Free Kid’s Meals When Dining Out

by Heather (Penticton)

This month’s article includes ideas on where to find decent gluten free kid’s meals when dining out.  The following restaurants we have taken Kate to at least a couple of times and have had really positive experiences:

Taco Time: Order the kid’s meal with a cheese quesadilla on a corn tortilla; staff is amenable to wiping the grill first. (Kate’s favourite).

Boston Pizza: Either the grilled salmon just as it comes on the kid’s menu (with drink and Jello for dessert), or as we have found they are willing to do grilled chicken with rice and steamed vegetables instead.

Wedgie’s Pizza Parlour: Gluten Free Take-Out Pizza! It was a bit like Christmas when we discovered that Wedgie’s Pizza can do nearly all of their pizzas on a GF crust. They are made on a separate pan – add $2 for GF version. (9th Ave, OK Falls ~ (250)493-9132)

Cozy Bay Seafood Café: This is my favourite. They have a ‘lighter portion’ GF Fish & Chips for kids. The food is excellent, staff is friendly and they have stickers or stamps for the kids, not to mention a singing lobster on the wall!
(13220 North Victoria, Summerland)

I would be happy to hear from parents with your ideas for GF dining, if you have some time, please send me an email.  Heather (

Remember to encourage you local stores to carry more Gluten Free products, so you can shop at their store!