Building Community and Fostering Inclusion in the Classroom

Jax recently had the chance to read a book to his 1st grade class about Celiac Disease. He chose to read the book “Gluten Makes My Tummy Roar!” written by Melinda Martell (@raising_jax_the_celiac) who Leslie Bari (@glutenfreefinds_pa) had connected with on Instagram. Ironically, Melinda also has a son named Jax who has Celiac Disease, and who was diagnosed a few months before our son Jax was diagnosed in August 2018.

Melinda wrote Gluten Makes My Tummy Roar! about a dinosaur that finds out he has Celiac Disease and has to avoid Gluten in order to be healthy. It is written in such a straightforward style for young, elementary school aged children to understand.

Like us, Melinda is also an advocate for Celiac Disease. She has written blogs, worked with various companies and has written this children’s book with a simplified approach to what Celiac Disease is in order to help children understand the autoimmune disease without using complicated medical terms.

Celiac awareness and education is so important and in Jax’s case, getting to read the book to his class was very empowering for him and has really helped build community.

For example, these are the kids who Jax will be spending time with over the next 12 years of school! The more people who know about Celiac Disease, the better. It is so helpful for Jax’s friends and classmates (as well as their parents) to better understand Celiac Disease. According to Jax’s teacher, “Jax shared what Celiac is, what foods he loves, what foods are not safe for him, and the best ways that the class can keep him safe at school!”

Within a few days of Jax sharing the book, several other class parents reached out to Leslie that their kids had come home and told them about Jax having Celiac Disease and that a member of their community has special needs and requires protection from foods that will harm him. Moreover, various class parents asked questions about certain foods and treats that are safe for Jax to eat. This was so heartwarming because it represented meaningful empathy for Jax so that Jax and his friends can enjoy safe treats together as a class. Hopefully it continues to spark conversations in other households as well and continues to build community.

We are very appreciative that Jax’s teacher has been so supportive this year in keeping Jax safe and being included. We are appreciative that Melinda wrote a book that is easy for kids to understand and learn about Celiac Disease! It is great that the main character is named Jax, and we are so proud of our Jax for getting up in front of his class and doing this!

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