News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: How can I build support for my child’s dietary intervention plan?

JCCHD | Tue, April 23, 2013 | [Autism Treatment][Healthcare][Q and A ]

Children and a pear

Q: My son has autism and we’ve been working on implementing a healthy gluten- and dairy-free diet. However, his school keeps sabotaging his dietary intervention plan. Although I’ve tried to explain it to them (I got a note from his doctor and wrote out the plan, and I send in all of his food), they just don’t seem to get it. They allow him free access to other snacks, use materials like PlayDoh that are inappropriate, and are generally unsupportive. How can families successfully build a positive relationship with their school to make this work?

A: First, ask for assistance from your son’s clinicians. Your doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian should be able to assist you with information and ideas on how to successfully navigate this relationship. It sounds like you’ve made a great effort to do so, but building those bridges and a network of professionals to speak to school staff can make a huge difference in school personnel support. 

At The Johnson Center we’ve been very successful, not only in working with public schools and private schools, but also entire school districts here in the state of Texas. In some instances we’ve been able to help determine both what is happening in the school cafeteria for breakfasts and lunches, but also what’s happening in the classroom. We have a lot of materials we provide the families we serve and we also talk directly with the teachers and dieticians within school districts.

An open line of communication is what’s really important. One successful approach we’ve taken has been educating the other families in the classroom. If you can let the other families know what’s happening and why it is so important that your child be protected, it can create a better situation for your child. Educating the teacher and any aides about why this intervention was prescribed may help them to better understand the importance of following through and protecting your child.  Finally, with your physician’s support, your child’s medical and dietary needs can be included in his or her Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and we encourage families to seek out this clear guidance for all personnel when possible.

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