This past week I hosted a special needs mini-conference at the Children’s Ministry Expo in Lexington, KY. Kristy Moser, Early Childhood Pastor for Crosstown Children’s Ministry at Montgomery Community Church in Cincinnati, OH and Meaghan Wall, Special Needs Ministry Coordinator for Stonebriar Church in Frisco, Texas offered insight and stories from their respective experiences serving children with special needs. Kristy talked about learning what the acronym “GFCF” meant and how important it was to understand the diet for successful inclusion of children with special needs.
GFCF refers to a gluten-free, casein-free diet. This type of diet may be a part of a child’s treatment plan or even vital to their physical well-being. Individuals with a gluten intolerance, or Celiac Disease, cannot digest gluten (e.g. wheat flour). Celiac Disease is a genetic and autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself when exposed to gluten. The “GF” acronym will refer to foods that are gluten-free and are safe for an individual with Celiac Disease. For many children neurological disorders such as autism or even ADHD, a gluten-free, casein-free diet (GFCF) may be followed as part of their treatment plan. Casein is found in milk and other dairy products. For more explanation of these diets see the IAN Research Report: Special Diets on the Autism Speaks website. Churches may want to consider keeping GFCF snacks on hand or requiring families to provide their own snacks so that the health of impacted children is not jeopardized during church. Children’s ministry teams may also want to plan crafts around these sensitivities as touching products containing gluten (certain glue, ink pads, paints) can be harmful.
Meaghan Wall, Special needs Ministry Coordinator for Stonebriar Church in Frisco, Texas was gracious enough to provide two forms from her ministry:
(1) Gluten Free Snack & Candy List,
(2) Gluten Intolerance (Celiac Disease) explanation, instructions, and safe/unsafe products list.
These are two of the best forms I’ve ever seen for explaining and outlining what products are safe to use for crafts or consumption. I suggest printing these forms and making them a standard part of the intake process for affected ministry participants. Parents may also benefit from this form by presenting it to new church and school settings for their child. You may access Stonebriar church’s Gluten-Free forms here: Gluten Free List from Stonebriar Community Church.