Sometimes pride and/or denial makes a parent or student hesitate about starting to enact a 504 plan for a student with diabetes. Section 504 is a federal civil rights law enacted to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability. This law also prohibits retaliation for asserting the right not to be discriminated against.
I met with teachers and school principals to outline my children’s care as they went through the public school system. We had great communication and understanding, so I did not draft a written 504 plan. But each situation is very different.
I would advise beginning the school year by meeting with your child’s teachers and the school nurse, if possible. When meet to plan out a 504 education plan for your child, you can be firm but non-threatening. It is the law to accommodate a student with diabetes, and the school administration generally knows and respects that. Any school that is subject to federal funding must follow this law for students with any disabilities.
Come prepared with an outline of your child’s needs and medical records. It could be helpful to bring a CDE or another parent who has gone through the process so that you will have support and another advocate to help you get your message across. People have a lot of misconceptions about diabetes and how to treat high and low blood sugars, for example. The ADA and JDRF have helpful handouts to simplify things for the school, such as knowing how to recognize a low blood sugar, for example.
Write a clear outline of what diabetes care looks like for your child on a given day. I suggest listing columns for what your child can do on his or her own and what you expect the school to help with. If your child needs to inject or test, you will need to try to be as specific as possible about times and then let them know immediately about unforeseen circumstances that would change the routine.
Once you are happy with the plan, everyone can sign off on it and revisions can be made as the school year progresses until all parties are comfortable. A separate meeting with the gym teacher or sports coach is also very important, as snacking and watching for hypoglycemia can be an issue when your child plays strenuous sports.
Every student with diabetes is an individual with very different capabilities and needs depending on how long they have had diabetes and many other factors. It is extremely important to convey this at any school meeting where you voice your concerns and needs. If one student tests himself or herself while another child requires assistance in testing, it doesn’t mean one child is smarter or better-adjusted to diabetes.
There is no one right or wrong category or box you or your child need to fit into. There are stages of learning and adapting and periods of adjustment to diabetes. It is by no means a “one size fits all” condition. Don’t let anyone tell you that you are doing this wrong — you live it. Always make sure you are comfortable and secure with the plan to keep your child safe and happy at school.
If you have any questions or concerns call or write to: U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C. 20202-1100 (800) 421-3481.
Have a great school year!