When your child has diabetes, you have to keep track of a lot of numbers: blood sugar, A1C and doctors’ phone numbers. And when your child goes to school, you need to familiarize yourself with the number 504.
Why? Because Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 says a plan must be developed to meet the requirements of this federal law prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities. Specifically, the plan outlines actions that schools need to take to ensure students with diabetes are:
- medically safe
- given the same access to education as other children
- treated fairly.
Used the right way, 504 plans can minimize misunderstanding among school staff, parents/guardians and students and helps them all understand their responsibilities. According to the American Diabetes Association, every student with diabetes should have a 504 plan or other written accommodations.
The plan should spell out the services and modifications your child needs. Specifically, it should state that:
- School staff must be trained to recognize and treat low and high blood sugar emergencies.
- School staff must follow provisions of the student’s Diabetes Medical Management Plan or doctor’s orders.
Since needs vary, no two Section 504 plans will be the same. For example, you probably would not outline self-management for a kindergartener but would include provisions for a high school senior to test his or her blood glucose before taking a test.
Some school districts prefer to use their own forms. Just make sure it includes language appropriate to meet all of your child’s diabetes care needs at school. Typical provisions in a 504 plan require that:
- Multiple school staff members are trained to check blood glucose levels and administer insulin and glucagon.
- Staff members who regularly interact with your child (such as teachers, coaches and bus drivers) can recognize low and high blood glucose levels and respond.
In addition, the plan should stipulate that your child:
- May keep diabetes supplies with them and self-manage their diabetes anytime and anywhere – if they are capable.
- Has access to assistance in the classroom – so their safety is ensured.
- May fully participate in all sports, extracurricular activities and field trips, for which the school will provide necessary care assistance and/or supervision.
- Has permission to eat whenever and wherever needed, and is given enough time to finish eating lunch.
- Is allowed to make extra visits to the water fountain or bathroom.
- Has permission to take extra absences for sick days and medical appointments without penalty.
- Is given alternate options for classroom time missed for medical appointments due to periods of high or low blood sugar levels or to illness related to diabetes.
You can find a school form for your child on akronchildrens.org. Parents need to complete the form, get medical records released, sign the form (and have it witnessed), then send it to the Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology so your child’s healthcare provider can sign it. If the physician has not seen your child within 6 months, the form cannot be completed until your child has an appointment.
For additional information about diabetes, visit Akron Children’s Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology.