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Calgary mom says autistic son 'snack shamed' at school over banana bread

By Shawn Logan, Postmedia

A Calgary mom says her autistic son was "snack shamed" for eating banana bread, forced to eat out in the hallway while his Grade 1 classmates ate fresh fruits and vegetables.

The mom, who Postmedia has agreed not to identify over concerns her six-year-old son could be punished, said she recently learned he had been removed from class for the offending grub.

"They told me they only allow fresh fruits and vegetables for snack time," she said, noting there are limited foods he will actually eat.

"He was told to sit outside of the class to eat his snack. It's not right. He's being punished by being made to eat by himself."

The mom said her son is on the higher functioning side of the autism spectrum and attends regular classes at a Calgary public school despite his special needs.

But by ostracizing her child from his fellow classmates, she feels it's hurting his development and contributing to his growing antipathy towards school that's manifested itself in recent months.

The mom said last week she met with administrators at the school and was told the healthy snacks were part of the school's learning environment.

"I was told it was part of the health curriculum or health unit and he had to eat healthy food," said the mother.

"I said (my son) should be in class eating with the other kids. I understand healthy eating, but you're not going to tell me what to feed my child."

According to the Calgary Board of Education's nutrition policy, only "healthy food and beverage" options are sold or provided in the district's schools, however it doesn't apply to snacks or lunches packed for students by their parents.

While the board "encourages" parents to make "healthy choices" for snacks and lunches, the nutrition policy only applies to food provided by the schools.

A statement provided by the CBE, which due to privacy regulations won't discuss individual students' cases, said while the policy doesn't apply to snacks provided by parents, sometimes schools use snack times as learning opportunities.

"Staff may support students with learning and behaviour related to any activity during the day," the statement said. "Sometimes this occurs as students are having a snack. In these circumstances the actions staff takes are not related to a nutritional choice or snack a parent has sent.

"In order to support healthy growth and development, it is important to provide affordable and accessible nutritious snacks in school. Many of our schools participate in health programs and ensure that nutritious foods are available for students."

The mom said she suspects this has been going on for awhile, finding the occasional uneaten apple or orange in his lunch bag that she didn't pack.

"I definitely know I haven't always packed apples and oranges and he still comes back with them," she said.

"I found out the teacher has taken his banana bread away (in the past) and replaced it with something else."

Despite the dust-up with her school, the mom said she has no plans of changing his son's diet to appease school administrators pushing what she sees as a nutritional agenda.

"I send food with him that I know he will eat," she said.

"I don't want people telling me what to feed my child."

slogan@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @ShawnLogan403