Shortly after her celiac diagnosis, it was time for Grace to decide which college she would attend, so our first forays away from home was for her to visit the college she was considering. We scheduled campus tours. Knowing we had specific questions that needed answering, I scheduled an appointment with the university’s Disabilities Resources Center (DRC) to discuss Grace’s celiac concerns, as well as her post concussive daily migraines.
The tours were fantastic, especially learning more about the nutrition program to which Grace was admitted. Truthfully, I was envious that university’s hands-on learning model and core philosophy is “Learn by Doing.” This meant that as a freshman Grace’s food labs would have her making the jams and BBQ sauces that were sold in the campus store…
I wanted to go to school and make jam and BBQ sauce! I could be her roommate! I could protect her from on campus gluten! We could be just like the Melissa McCarthy film, Life of the Party!
Just look at them…daughter has RBF. Mom is a bit – over the top. Sound familiar?
I was only marginally wounded by the look of abject horror on Grace’s face. She knew I was kidding. Didn’t she? Wasn’t I?
During our appointment at the DRC, we met with an Access Specialist who was a wealth of information. He outlined the accommodations available to her for the migraine and provided an overview of the accommodations for celiac, which included being assigned to a dorm that had access to a kitchen and the possibility of having a separate refrigerator and microwave in her dorm room. He provided us with the name of the campus dietician and suggested we meet with her once we finalize our decision.
Less than 6 weeks later Grace officially committed and was ready to finalize her plans. We had a telephone meeting with the on-campus Registered Dietician who presented some of the gluten-free offerings on campus, including a large gluten-free section in the campus market, one certified gluten and allergen free dining option and another offering prepared foods but not certified gluten-free.
The dietician outlined possible housing accommodations for celiacs and encouraged us to contact housing once decisions were made.
The housing decision took a while. She could be in one of the newest dorms (each sharing a fully appointed communal kitchen) and like the rest of the freshmen (or first years), would participate in the dining services meal plan. This sounded good, but the only certified GF kitchen was a long haul from the dorm. Her other option was being placed in the on-campus apartments where she could have more control of her meals and not have to commit to a meal plan. Sounded great, but this housing option was for second through fourth year students. This decision took a while. Grace decided she would rather be with her peers and felt confident that as long as she had kitchen access, she’d be good-to-go.
We submitted the application along with a doctor’s note confirming her celiac, outlining the need for kitchen access, as well as an accommodation for a separate fridge and microwave in her dorm room.
FINDING A ROOMMATE
The roommate situation was the next hurdle. Housing offered to pair her up with another freshman with celiac, but Grace wanted to start off as normal as possible. This left two options: random match (like back in the day when nearly everyone was randomly assigned) or finding your own roommate which involved connecting with and selecting a roommate from a Facebook group for freshmen in search of a roommate.
It felt kind of like an online dating app. Navigating the process with Grace was hilarious. Every person created their page including blurbs, likes, dislikes, and photos. My jock daughter had parameters like one swimsuit photo is ok, two was passable if it was sports-focused, or three any of the above with pouty-mouthed fish face or sexy pose garnered a, “Next!”
The pool narrowed as the housing application deadline approached and eventually, Grace and another girl exchanged emails. Over a phone call, she disclosed her celiac and migraine situations. There was no objection on the other end, so the agreement was made.
TIPS & TAKEAWAYS:
- When researching schools learn what accommodations are offered to those with celiac or extreme gluten sensitivity.
- Connect with necessary campus departments: disability services, campus dining, housing.
- Determine the safest options when making your decision.
- Submit documentation to secure accommodations.
- Consider roommate options, disclose and set ground rules for cohabitating.