How a School 504 Plan Helps a Child with Type 1

My son’s fourth grade teacher encouraged him to create a 504 Plan shortly after his Type 1 diagnosis. I had no idea what it was. I quickly learned how it could be a helpful tool for our son, my husband and me, and the school.

A student does not have to have a learning disability to have a 504 Plan in place. As it turns out, any school that receives federal funds is required to develop a 504 Plan for any student with a mental or physical condition that might limit their ability to function in school.

(A 504 Plan differs from the more widely known IEP Plan in that it has a broader definition of what constitutes a “disability” that impedes learning. If a child with diabetes has no other physical or mental conditions that can impede the learning process, he or she is likely not to qualify for an IEP, but might qualify for a 504 Plan.)

This plan has become a platform to help us communicate any adjustments to normal school rules that our son needed. It ensures that staff implement equal access rules to testing and activities to minimize the impact diabetes has on our son’s learning.

Here are some of the major items that we included in our 504 Plan:

  • Documented awareness that there will be extra absences for sick days and doctor appointments. Prior to diabetes, my son missed about four days of school a year. The year he was diagnosed, he missed 17.
  • Adjusted provisions for classwork, homework, and testing. The first year of his diagnosis, between missing school and battling lows, it wasn’t possible for him to make up all the work. His teacher understood this and was flexible. This understanding helped him, and us, transition to life with diabetes.
  • Permission to eat and drink whenever and wherever. Someone who doesn’t have diabetes might not understand that when my son needs a snack, he needs a snack.
  • Permission to take extra trips to the bathroom. Kids with diabetes can’t always plan their bathroom breaks due to blood sugar spikes. When he runs high, he needs to be excused more often.
  • Permission to carry his supplies and use them anywhere, anytime. If he feels low in class, I want him to check there, not wait to take a flight of stairs to the nurse’s office to do it.

The 504 Plan goes to all of his teachers prior to a new school year. I get a call from the school every new year asking about possible updates, often before I even remember to let them know about them.

It’s great knowing my son’s school has a support system I can trust. It makes sure everyone concerned with my son’s education is on the same page about how to support him as he goes to school with diabetes.

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Stephanie Jordan is a business strategy and organizational development consultant who was introduced to Type 1 diabetes when her son was diagnosed in 2013. She actively works to improve the lives of children and their families through her work on the board of the Southeastern Diabetes Education Services organization and with multiple programs provided by Camp Seale Harris that encourage children with diabetes to live well. She lives in Alabama with her husband, son, and three dogs.

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