At last, a book to help teachers in school, pre-schools and daycare centres deal with the most daunting dietary challenge of recent times.
The explosion in food intolerances is continually being written off as an imagined phenomenon of an attention seeking ‘helicopter-parent’ generation, but amid all the conflicting theories and information, it is the teachers and carers who are increasingly being charged with keeping our kids on the straight and narrow in a world filled with wheat.
Their views and knowledge will ultimately have a huge impact on our kids in an environment where frightened parents have very little power or information about how to manage the unique problems presented in the schoolyard.
Regardless of their beliefs, teachers are also the unwitting recipients of any health or behavioural issues stemming from these intolerances – and hence have a huge vested interest in making difficult diets work. And given the seriousness of conditions such as coeliac disease, education and support in schools has become an absolute necessity.
Now a new Australian reference guide called A Practical Guide to Supporting Children with Coeliac Disease & Gluten Intolerance by Anne Vise offers a ray of hope for teachers and carers of young children with some of these very troublesome conditions.
This concise, 32-page guide is what I’d describe as a very easy read with an excellent table of contents and very up to date information highly relevant to educators. It has sections on class parties, crafts, canteens and tuckshops and gives very specific suggestions and solutions to common problems such as offering kid friendly recipes, classroom snack suggestions, and guidelines on food preparation.
The important skill of label reading is also covered, as well as comprehensive information on coeliac disease: what it is, and how it differs from other sensitivities (which are also becoming increasingly common, adding substantially to the confusion out there).
It also offers guidelines for teachers and carers on how to talk about intolerances using “child-first” language – very important for kids who keenly feel the stigma of anything that sets them apart from their peers. The issues surrounding ‘lunchbox swaps’ and managing the habits of older, more independent children is also discussed.
As a mum who has spent years now preparing special meals (for daycare) and trying to educate carers about the risks of wheat based products like playdough (which are easily consumed by toddlers), baking dozens of gluten-free cakes for class birthdays, and worrying about lunch boxes on school excursions – this is a very welcome guide which I sincerely hope will help teachers and carers at the coalface of our children’s health and well being.