Tips for Including Dietary Restrictions in Your Child’s IEP

August 8th, 2013

By Holly Bortfeld

When your child is on a special diet for medical reasons, getting the correct wording into your child’s IEP is very important to minimize dangerous infractions.

What parents must provide

Parents must get a letter from their doctor stating that for medical reasons, your child cannot have certain foods (which must be listed).  The letter should also list safe alternatives for your child.  You can use this template at Medical Statement for Student Requiring Special Meals Form (PDF) - Download it here.

Parents are also required to provide alternative school supplies, snacks, and meals unless you choose to buy from the cafeteria, which also must follow the medical plan for alternate foods for your child.

Verbiage

Do not use the word “diet”, instead, use the word “allergy”.  When it’s written as a medical condition, the school has no choice but to make sure it is adhered too.

School staff

To be clear, the school doesn’t get to choose if they want to follow your child’s medical plan, its federal law that all staff - teachers, aides, therapists, etc. including substitutes - must follow your child’s IEP, so you need to make sure the dietary restrictions are included.

The school is liable for protecting children while in their care and negligence by staff may result in the necessity for a 1:1 aide to keep the child safe in the school environment.  I have seen more than one child qualify for an aide based on a repeated infraction by staff.

Eating school-provided meals

Due to nutrition quality issues, few families choose this route, but if you want your child to be fed by the school’s lunch program, the school’s food service program must follow your doctor’s instructions set out on this form:

Medical Statement for Student Requiring Special Meals Form (PDF) - Download it here.

You would also attach this form to your IEP.

Federal law says that the school must provide allergen-free foods for a child through the cafeteria service if the parent requests at no additional costs to children whose disability restricts their diet as defined in USDA’s nondiscrimination regulations, 7 CFR Part 15b, and that all school staff must follow the child’s dietary needs written into the IEP.

You can find the Federal law here  http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Guidance/special_dietary_needs.pdf

Where in the IEP?

Every IEP has a Health/Medical section and that’s where you put specific information regarding diet.  You can also list it again, and with more detail in the Accommodations and Modifications section.

Sample wording used in IEPs

[Child’s name] is allergic to [foods] and all food consumed will be provided by the parent. In the event that a special snack is brought in please notify parent a minimum of 2 days in advance and parent will bring substitute in. All food given to child must be cleared with parent IN ADVANCE.

[Child’s name] has food allergies and is on a medically necessary special diet per Physician's order (order is attached to this IEP document). No [foods] shall be given to [Child’s name]. Parents will provide all of [Child’s name] meals and special snacks, party treats, etc. In addition, parents will be given 2 days* minimum prior notice if the supply of treats runs low or the class has occasions when special foods are served as part of the curriculum so that medically appropriate alternatives can be provided from home to facilitate participation. Because of skin sensitivities, only gluten/casein, soy-free glues, clays, pastas, etc. must be used. *choose how long in advance is appropriate for your situation

Staff will prompt [Child’s name] during snack and meal time to make appropriate food choices by requesting her special food and refusing all other food & drink.

Teachers and therapists will follow the agreed upon prompt hierarchy.

Staff will use a daily communication book that must be read and signed off by all staff, aides & volunteers to be clear that they understand [Child’s name] medical plan. (this was implemented after several infractions by staff)

Due to [Child’s name] multiple allergies and propensity to eat anything he can grab, no food, candy, or beverages, other than water, will be left unsecured in [Child’s name] environment, i.e., the classroom, therapy room, specials room, etc.  This includes other children’s and staff food and treats.

Staff will use social stories, video modeling and/or playscripts to aid [Child’s name]’s understanding of his medical restrictions in regards to his food allergies.

Sample IEP goals

GOAL:

[Child’s name] will deny offer of foods that are not brought from home.

Incremental objective #1 related to the goal:

When adult asks [Child’s name] if he can eat food not brought from home, he will answer “No” 70% of the time.

Incremental objective #2 related to the goal:

When adult asks [Child’s name] if he can eat food not brought from home, he will answer “No” 80% of the time.

GOAL:

[Child’s name] will self monitor the consumption of safe foods and non-edible items.

Incremental objective #1 related to the goal:

Will be able to decline offers of unsafe foods that look similar to his by asking “Am I allergic to this?” 2 out of 5 opportunities.

Incremental objective #2 related to the goal:

Will refrain from eating non-edible items (such as rocks, plastic and wood) at all times independently or by asking an adult 4 out of 5 opportunities.

GOAL:

[Child’s name] will self-monitor safe food consumption (gluten, casein, soy-free foods).

Incremental objective #1 related to the goal:

Will be able to only consume foods provided for him from home.

Incremental objective #2 related to the goal:

Will be able to decline offers of unsafe foods.

If the school refuses

If the district is refusing to implement any aspect of the medical plan (or anything else!) into the IEP, you should request Prior Written Notice (PWN).

Under 34 CFR §300.503(a), the school district must give you a written notice (information received in writing), whenever the school district: (1) Proposes to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of your child or the provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to your child; or (2) Refuses to begin or change the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of your child or the provision of FAPE to your child.

In this case, the request for dietary accommodations/modifications/goals would be considered “provision of FAPE to your child.”

Basically, this means the district has to explain why they are refusing the parent’s request. And gaining the district’s position in writing is the first step in overcoming the obstacle.

Here are good links for more on PWN:
http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/tips/bonnell.iep.attach.htm
http://www.wrightslaw.com/idea/law/model.pwn.form.pdf

More helpful links:

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