Diabetes and 504 Plans

It’s 504 season…If you¬†have a child living with Diabetes, now is the time to create or update a¬†504 Plan for the 2015-2016 school year.

504 Plans establish accommodations that teachers, school nurses, and administrators must provide to ensure the medical and educational needs of qualifying students are met. This educational plan was established by Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which made it illegal to discriminate against those with disabilities, long-term illness or a physical impairment. For years, those living with T1D were often denied protection under 504, but in the last ten years, the Office of Civil Rights, the federal office that fields complaints of violations of 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, has included diabetes in its list of diseases that warrant protection.

Often times, people think 504 is redundant of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, but this is inaccurate. Whereas the IDEA specifically offers rights and accommodations to individuals with learning disabilities, Section 504 extends accommodations to those who do not have learning disabilities, but who may need accommodations for other reasons.

A typical 504 Plan for a student with Diabetes should include mandates that:

  • there be a staff member trained in glucose monitoring, insulin administration, and glucagon administration at all times.
  • the student with Diabetes be permitted unrestricted access to the bathroom and water fountain–staying hydrated is crucially important in preventing ketoacidosis, especially during periods of high blood glucose levels.
  • the student with Diabetes be able to eat without restriction to treat low or falling glucose levels.
  • a trained staff member accompany the class on field trips and all off-site evacuations and drills.
  • the student not be penalized for missed classwork due to medical treatment (such as treatment for low blood glucose).
  • the student be given flexible testing dates if he or she suffers a hypoglycemic episode up to 2 hours before or anytime during a test–this is really important because it can take up to 18 hours for a person experiencing hypoglycemia to recover cognitively.

My son’s 504 plan also includes the following accommodations:

  • The student can leave for lunch up to 10 minutes early so that there is time to dose insulin in the nurse’s office before lunch.
  • The student can have extended time for lunch if he or she is not finished eating at the end of the class lunch period.
  • The student can travel to and from field trips in a parent’s car to allow for restroom breaks.
  • The teacher will inform the parent 24 hours in advance of any food treats or parties with food so that arrangements for insulin administration can be made.

504 plans are so, so important for a child with Diabetes, as they ensure the child is not penalized for class time missed due to medical care. Two years ago when my son was diagnosed, I met with a lot of resistance from school administration when I requested we do a 504 plan. I spent a lot of time educating the principals and the school psychologist, all of whom felt accommodations were unnecessary. However, now that they understand how high and low glucose levels affect physical and cognitive functions, they are 100% on board and have even initiated 504 plans for the three students at the school who have been diagnosed with T1D since Cole was diagnosed.

My next post will be about Diabetes and sports–Cole is very active in baseball and swimming. Unfortunately, we haven’t always had positive experiences with coaches because they don’t understand diabetes. I’ll post an information sheet I now provide my son’s coaches that helps them understand T1D and teaches them how they can support Cole and all athletes with T1D.

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