Gluten-Free-in--Home-Ec-ClaA big milestone for students can be taking that home ec class. That is what it was called back when I took it.  The class covered both cooking, sewing, and even home finances like balancing a checkbook.

Now, for my girls, it is called Food and Consumer Science.  My youngest girl is taking sewing now, later this year it will be cooking.  But three years ago about this time of year, it was my gluten-free girl, Emma, who was going through the cooking portion of the class.

I wrote all about scrambling to get a 504 plan in place for her back in 2011 when we learned about the imminent class.  What I didn’t write about at the time was that the 504 plan didn’t really work for us in that situation–but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t work.

A big challenge of cooking class is that students don’t make foods that are naturally gluten free. So some accommodations are necessary to experience the class.

What do you do?  Here are a few things to consider.

  • What kind of outcome does your child want?  Does he or she want to do the hands on cooking?  Or are you considering not having them participate in class?
  • Ask how the teacher has accommodated gluten free before, that may be a great way to come up with a good accommodation that works with the teacher.
  • Assuming you want to find a way to make it work,  what are your options?
    •  Do you want her kitchen group to make a gluten-free version of whatever is being made in class? Then, what ingredients will you supply keeping in mind cross contamination of food supplies in a FACS kitchen could be a factor.
    •  Are you fine with him making a gluten-filled meal, washing up well and not eating it?
    • If you are doing a gluten free meal, what about utensils?  If they use only wooden spoons and cutting boards, those supplies are porous and can be hard to get clean.
    •  Communication is key here as well–what role does your teacher play in all this?  Continued communication with the parent or student?  Or relatively hands off?

Once you think through your needs, get them down on paper– a 504 Plan to be specific. This is the one piece of paper that can hold the teacher accountable to following through with your (and your child’s) desires and needs.

Please learn from my mistakes.

When I look at the list above here’s what happened to us:

  • We knew we wanted Emma to participate in class.
  • I asked the teacher how she had handled this before: the two answers I got were that some kids just go to the library, in part, because of flying flour- specifically during cookie making.  And when they have the big spaghetti dinner, they make the food but don’t eat it.  Those were not really the answer I was looking for.  I had been hoping for something a little more open to gluten free options.  Although I did take her up on the library thing during cookie making and she made gluten-free cookies at home.  I didn’t like doing that, but I was not sure how crazy 7th graders would be with flour and it was the first thing they made.
  • So what were my options?
    • We put in our 504 Plan that the teacher would communicate with me before every big meal, she would send the recipe and we would supply the appropriate ingredients as needed
    • We asked that Emma be put in a group with friendly kids who would be open to an alternative cooking experience.

Neither of these things happened.

By the end of the trimester when we finally had conferences, I learned the teacher didn’t read Emma’s 504 Plan.  Emma ended up making the food recipes but  never eating them.  That is when I learned  the 504 Plan needed micromanagement to ensure the expectations were being met. At the time, I was also in the middle of a huge work project that was taking my concentration away from this school issue.

Unfortunately the experience soured Emma on taking a future cooking class.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Other parents gave me feedback on Facebook and on Twitter saying they communicated with their teachers and no one had an experience like ours.

Nancy is a middle school teacher and commented on The Savvy Celiac’s Facebook page, that she had asked this question to two different fellow teachers,”Both were happy to make accommodations where they could by buying different ingredients and having 1 kitchen doing the GF lab. I would call the teacher and work with them (not demand). You could help offer alternative ingredients – maybe even send in some of them for certain labs. What I have found is they are willing to work with you – but they may not know everything. ie: what are good alternative flour blends – bread etc. Be proactive.”

Another mom said their school nurse talked to their teacher and they got everything figured out.

@QueenNene on Twitter said her gluten-free daughter took two cooking classes in school with great success,

gftweetSo there are many accommodating teachers out there.  Just do your best to work and communicate with your child’s teacher.

If I were able to do it all over again I would have gotten the 504 Plan earlier and to give me time to better understand how it worked before the cooking class began.   I would like to think our experience was an anomaly.

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One Response to “Tips for a successful Home Ec class for your gluten free child”

  1. We went through this last month with my Celiac daughter and it went fine. The teacher needed a lot of guidance from me, but I was proactive at the beginning of the quarter and told her what would need to be done differently for my daughter for each recipe. (She provided me with a recipe book so I could see ingredients and directions. And we kept communicating via email as to what I would send in, and how things would be done differently. I had to buy and send in the alternative ingredients myself, which was fine, as I didn’t trust her knowledge of GF that well. There was one screw-up, though: I sent in GF granola for this one recipe that also called for brown sugar. She made the recipe but at the end of the class the teacher thought of something: that she keeps a slice of regular white bread in her brown sugar, which thus had contaminated it. So she never eat that recipe after all, but the others went fine. I have never done a 504 plan and she has been GF for 7 years now in school, and we seem to do fine without it. Good luck to those of you just starting this with your middle schooler. Just plan ahead and communicate closely with your child and his/her teacher.

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