Back to School 504 Plans

As the start of school is approaching in many areas of the country, it is time to decide if your student needs a 504 plan at their school. This is a personal decision. No person can say what is right for your child. There are benefits to drafting a 504 plan for many families.

There are several Federal laws protecting students with Diabetes:
The American With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
American With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)

Most people recoil when they hear the word “disability” associated with their diabetic child’s academic progress. The 504 plan is not about academic achievement. The 504 plan addresses “Major Life Activities”. The ADAAA expanded the list of “Major Life Activities” to include major bodily functions like the endocrine system. I agree that the proper functioning of the endocrine system is a major life activity.

The IDEA act is the federal act that covers a child with diabetes if the disease adversely affects the education performance or ability to gain benefit from such. There are some children with one or more disabilities that impact their academic achievement. That child might also have diabetes.

I realize that I went through many years of school without such a plan. Most of the time my teachers, nurses, coaches and faculty were helpful on my behalf. I Never would have wanted to be considered disabled, as a typical kid defines that word. However, my pancreas was surely disabled! It also would have been nice to not have to super stress to make sure that I did extremely well on some tests because I might have had (or usually had) fluctuating BG levels during a prior test. I had to double-time my grades during some years to make up for my lows or highs during class.

I also remember my mother and I being concerned about my absences during a particular year. I wasn’t hospitalized, but due to numerous doctor’s appointments, I was tardy more than usual. Those began to count as a full absence. During my freshman year of high school I seemed to go low 90 % of the time during my algebra class. My poor teacher was as nice as they come, but I missed so much of that crucial class time while recovering in the nurses office. I never regained my confidence in any math class after that year. I ended up asking that same Freshman teacher to be my tutor during my senior year. She is one teacher that I will never forget.

All that being said, I didn’t have a 504 plan. Even as an adult I recoiled when I first heard about it. I never wanted to be different and I certainly didn’t want a big action plan on my behalf. I see it differently now. A student may never need to address the things listed in their 504 plan, but they just might. I see it as a huge benefit now!

Consider contacting the American Diabetes Association for recommendations on how to go about this process. I help individuals review their drafts and help talk them through the process as well. The ADA has sample templates and a 24 hour call number to assist with any diabetes related questions, including those about a 504 plan.

Talk to other parents that have benefitted from a 504 and get as informed as possible.

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