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Gluten Free Diet for Students with Special Needs

What is a Gluten-Free Diet?


Gluten is a protein that is difficult for some people to digest. It is most commonly found in wheat, barley, and rye. However, many other products contain gluten. To benefit from a gluten-free diet, you must completely eliminate the consumption of gluten.



Who May Benefit from a Gluten-Free (GF) Diet?


Children with certain conditions may benefit from a gluten-free diet. Students who are diagnosed with autism, ADHD, ADD, celiac disease, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, autoimmune diseases, and Down Syndrome are often placed on a GF diet. A gluten-free diet may even help people suffering from mental illness.

Why Switch to a Gluten-Free Diet?



When the body does not break down gluten, the body’s immune system identifies it as a foreign threat. This activates the immune system to fight and destroy gluten. The process causes inflammation, which many scientists have now identified as the cause of illness and disease. For students with special needs, their most vulnerable areas are the lining of the gut and the brain. The symptoms of such inflammation include:

  • Constipation
  • Bloating
  • Undigested food in the stool
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Tantrums
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Inability to focus
  • Language and social delays

How to Completely Eliminate Gluten from Your Family’s Diet?


Gluten is often hidden in the food supply for several reasons.

First, food manufacturers often process other foods and food products on the same equipment as wheat, barley, and rye. When they do, this creates cross-contamination. While the product you buy may not originally have gluten in it, the exposure to gluten during processing contaminates the product you buy. Since minute amounts of gluten can damage the lining of the intestines, and we’re talking parts per million here (PPM), you need to be a savvy consumer to completely avoid gluten.

Second, food manufacturers routinely use gluten-containing foods as fillers in many products. Products like soy sauce, salad dressing, candy, and medication can all contain wheat or other foods with gluten.

  • Always check the labels before buying a product.
  • Become familiar with terms that are used to hide gluten in foods, such as ‘natural ingredients.’
  • Contact the manufacturer if you have any doubts.
  • Bring a GF foods guide with you to the supermarket to avoid confusion.
  • Identify all foods in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry that gluten and throw them away.
  • Replace or clean scrupulously all items that have come into contact with gluten foods, including:
    • Your toaster
    • Your knives and knife block
    • Open jars of jelly, jam, and other sauces and spreads
    • Utensils


The Last Word


  • Check with your child’s doctor before making major dietary changes to determine whether a GF diet would benefit you and your child.
  • Keep in mind that you must eliminate all GF foods from your diet.
  • It may take several weeks to see results. Your body and your child’s body may need that time to completely remove all gluten from the body.
  • That may be what your child needs to achieve reduced inflammation and, ultimately, healing in the body.




Students who require particular diets may qualify for this as an inclusion, modification, or service in a 504 Plan or an IEP. Should you have any questions or need help, please contact the attorneys at Sussan Greenwald & Wesler for more information at 609-409-3500.