Sometimes teachers are scrupulously careful about foods given to children on special diets, but use school supplies that contain forbidden ingredients. While gluten molecules are too large to transfer through the skin, many children taste their paints, glues and other supplies, or touch their hands to their mouths and ingest them accidentally. Having appropriate school supplies is especially important for younger children, who spend more time using arts and craft materials, and who are more likely to put things in their mouths.
Try to meet with teachers at the start of the school year and get a list of supplies that will be used. If your child’s school has a sensory table, you can request that it be filled with rice or dried beans, instead of macaroni or gluten grains. You may want to volunteer to be the “playdough parent” and keep the classroom supplied with a safe version that you don’t have to worry about.
Playdough can and will end up in your child’s mouth, so at home or school, make sure that the only dough in sight is gluten-free. Volunteer to be the school “playdough parent” if necessary. A gluten free recipe:
Place 1 cup finely-ground white rice flour,* 2 tsp cream of tartar, ¼ cup salt, 1 tsp xanthan gum, and 2 TBSP vegetable oil in a blender. With the blade running, slowly add approximately
½ cup of boiling water through the feed tube until the mixture forms a ball. Add water a spoonful at a time until the dough is soft and firm. Add natural food coloring if desired. If you don’t have a food processor, this can be mixed by hand. Let cool and knead until silky, lightly dusting the kneading surface with more flour if necessary. Store in a tightly-sealed container. Refrigeration isn’t necessary but will keep it fresh longer.
*Note: for a softer, smoother end result, use “sweet rice flour.”
If the school is unwilling to ensure that all of the supplies they use are safe, you can put together a tub of appropriate items for your child’s use. For a list of safe school supplies, visit the TACA website (www.gfcf-diet.talkaboutcuringautism.org), and click on “School Implementation” on the links to the left.