How to Build a 504 Plan For Your Child with T1D

The start of the school year is a very exciting time for both children and parents. Of course, if your child has been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, the change in setting can be a bit stressful as well. 

As a parent, you want your child to have a smooth school year without any hiccups due to their diabetes. This is why it makes sense for you to look into a 504 plan for your child this school year. 

504 plans are legal documents that provide a specific set of accommodations for your child with diabetes that are to be provided by their school administration. These plans are in place so that your child’s health does not impact their educational experience and vice versa. 504 plans are a type of Individualized Health Plan (IHP), so be sure to check out our article on that as well.

How do 504 Plans Work for Type 1 Diabetics?

The 504 plans are actually part of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which is a federal law. This law was created to avoid any discrimination towards those with an illness or disability. The law states:

“No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States…shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance [.]”

Since diabetes affects the endocrine or hormonal system and requires many lifestyle changes, it is also a condition that falls under Section 504. So, children with T1D can get certain accommodations in their schooling, keeping their condition in mind. 

Since all public schools receive Federal funding, they are required to provide the necessary resources for students requesting a 504 plan for diabetes. 

These resources touch on various aspects of management and can include things like trained staff members to check your child’s blood glucose levels in school, time off on sick days and for appointments, etc. 

You can ask for various requests, but you can’t ask to be present in school or during field trips or extracurricular activities to look after your child unless parents or caretakers are allowed in general. 

What Can You Include in Your Child’s 504 Plan (T1D)?

As discussed earlier, you can add quite a lot of things to your child’s 504 plan to make sure that you and your child are comfortable when at school. Some things you might want to include in the plan are: 

  • Trained nurses who can regularly check your child’s blood glucose levels in school.
  • Extra days off for when your kid is sick or when they have an appointment. 
  • Adjustments to their academic schedule and even tests and exams to accommodate the days they take off or when they miss school due to high or low blood sugar levels. 
  • Extra breaks to use the washroom or to get water. 
  • Trained staff to be present during field trips and extracurricular activities so that they can provide diabetic management if there’s a need for that. 
  • Training for staff members who are often with the child regarding picking up on symptoms of high and low blood sugar levels. These can include people like teachers, sports coaches, bus drivers, etc. 
  • Permission for your child to carry and use their diabetes management supplies in school (including class) and during field trips. 
  • Staff should inform you before any changes to meals, physical activity days, or field trips so that you can adjust your child’s insulin dosage accordingly.
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How Do You Create a 504 Plan?

1. Talk to your doctor to come up with a plan

Before creating and applying for a 504 plan for your child, you need to talk to your child’s doctor and come up with a personalized diabetes medical management plan (DMMP). A DMMP is a very important document as it details how your doctor expects your child’s diabetes to be managed and is part of your 504 plan application. 

The DMMP is quite detailed and includes all necessary things like – 

  • Target blood sugar level range
  • Symptoms your child has when their blood sugars are low
  • How episodes of low blood glucose levels are managed
  • How often your child’s blood sugar levels are to be checked
  • Insulin dose for your child
  • Medication that your child is using
  • The level of physical activity your child is allowed to participate in
  • Meal plans for normal days and on special occasions

2. Do your research

When you plan on applying for a 504 plan, other than your child’s DMMP, you need to do your research to figure out what exactly you can ask for and what you should be asking for. As part of this research, you might consider looking at online templates for a 504 plan

You can also talk to other caretakers and parents whose kids have diabetes and who have a 504 plan in place. They can guide you on what your child could need and give you some insight into what to expect. 

You can also look at the sample plan provided by the ADA and then decide what you want to add or remove from your child’s plan. 

3. Request a 504 plan 

Once you have done all your research and have a DMMP for your child, you can then apply for a 504 plan for your child. To do that, you’ll need to fill out a form detailing your child’s condition, how independent they are, and the accommodations you want the school to make. 

4. Attend the evaluation meeting with all the necessary information

Before your 504 plan is accepted by the school, you’ll have a formal evaluation to judge whether or not your child is eligible for a 504 plan. Legally the school doesn’t have to invite you, so if your child’s school does not invite you, you can reach out yourself. 

This evaluation basically judges how diabetes is impacting your child’s education and how easily they can participate in the usual educational activities. 

During this evaluation input is taken from teachers, the student, parents, and even healthcare providers. Whoever attends the meeting should be knowledgeable regarding your child’s management. 

Remember, it’s best to take all school records and medical records to the meeting. 

5. Talk to the relevant authorities in the school

A lot of people will be involved in looking after your child when they are in school. So, it’s a good idea to meet them all. This way you can discuss your plans with them, and talk about any concerns. 

When you are making your 504 plan, you can go meet the school’s principal, your child’s teachers, and the school’s nurses. You can even meet the cafeteria staff to get insight into the meals that are served. 

All this will help you get to know the people responsible for your kid and give you peace of mind. You can also give them any important information that is specific to your child’s needs. 

Make Sure Your Child’s 504 Plan Covers All the Bases

When you make your 504 plan, you should be very clear and detailed regarding your child’s management plan so that there’s no confusion or miscommunication during the year.

Once you have signed a plan and it has been accepted, you need to make sure that it’s being implemented properly and you should ideally stay in touch with the school throughout the year. If there are any changes to your child’s management plan during the year, you can make those changes to the 504 plan too. 

The plan is a yearly document so you need to refresh it every academic year.

If the school rejects the plan or you feel like they are not implementing it properly, you have every right to bring up your concerns. You can first talk to the 504 plan coordinator within the school and address any concerns that you have. 

If that does not resolve the issue, you can actually file a formal complaint with the school district or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) within the U.S. Department of Education. There you can bring up all your issues regarding the incorrect implementation or rejection of your 504 plan for your child.

Ensuring a Safe and Supportive School Year for Your Child with T1D

Creating a 504 plan for your child with type 1 diabetes is an essential step in ensuring their educational experience is safe, inclusive, and accommodating.

By understanding the legal framework, engaging with medical professionals, and collaborating closely with school authorities, you can tailor a plan that addresses your child’s unique needs. This proactive approach not only fosters a supportive learning environment but also empowers your child to manage their condition confidently and effectively.

Remember, a well-crafted 504 plan is not static; it should evolve with your child’s needs and be reviewed annually. By staying informed and involved, you can advocate for the necessary adjustments and ensure the plan’s successful implementation, providing peace of mind and a positive school experience for both you and your child.