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Do You Need A 504 Plan for Your Child’s Health Needs?

March 21, 2014 in Special Education Articles by Jess

More students than ever are currently attending school with such chronic conditions as diabetes, cancer, asthma, severe food allergies and seizure disorders.

For more than a decade, I supervised the school nurses in an 11,000-student school district. I often consulted with parents, principals, and nurses about students’ health concerns.

If your child has a specific condition, you are your child’s best advocate. Make sure you are thoroughly informed about your child’s needs and rights. It is critically important for you to communicate with the school principal, school nurse, and your child’s teachers. Be actively involved in helping the school to understand and provide the services and attention your child needs to succeed.

Prescriptions, doctor's orders and other necessary paperwork should be updated by parents at the start of each school year or when there is a change in your child’s treatment. You should also check the school's policies, protocols and guidelines in regard to the handling of specific health conditions.

Often, health issues can be addressed successfully by developing a medical management plan that gives the school guidance on your child’s specific needs. Creating a medical management plan for how your child’s health needs will be handled at school should be a team effort that includes you, your child, school personnel, and your child’s doctors. It is very important that the plan is documented in writing.

Parents often ask about whether they need a 504 Plan to manage their child’s health needs at school. Whereas a medical management plan provides guidelines, a 504 Plan is legally binding. It is your call whether you want to request a 504 Plan for your child.

School districts are required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (29 U.S.C. § 794) to provide all students, regardless of disability, with a "free appropriate public education." This provision, found in section 504, applies to any condition - physical, mental, or emotional - that might interfere with a student's ability to receive an education in a public school. That means that no student with a disability can be excluded from school. 504 Plans are comprehensive plans created collaboratively by parents, nurses, and other interested parties to address the student's individual needs.

Severe peanut allergies, diabetes, and seizure disorders are a few of the conditions that may or may not fall under the Rehabilitation Act. For example, 504 Plans may address the use of anaphylactic medications, such as epi-pens, and how staff will be utilized to recognize and respond to allergy symptoms. 504 plans sometimes require nurses to be on school premises at all times to administer glucagon for diabetes or seizure disorder medication. 504 plans may also address specific responsibilities of students and staff.

A student must have a condition that "substantially limits one or more major life activities," to qualify for a 504 Plan. Students have to be evaluated by the school district to determine whether they are eligible. The district will take into consideration the age and capability of the child. If parents are dissatisfied with the outcome, they may appeal.

In addition to the Rehabilitation Act, several other laws protect students with health issues. These include the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While the Rehabilitation Act offers protection to public school students, the ADA extends protection to students in private schools and day care centers

What are the pros and cons of a 504 Plan?

• A 504 Plan is a legal document. 504 Plans can be enforced in court, or with the United States Office of Civil Rights

• A 504 Plan makes expectations for all concerned -- parents, students, classmates, teachers, aides, nurses, and administrators – crystal clear.

• 504 Plans can provide specific guidelines for handling your child's health issues even if there are changes in school personnel.

• 504 Plans can address your child's health needs in a variety of school-related activities, including field trips, fire drills, lunch, and extra-curricular activities.

• Obtaining a 504 Plan will be time-consuming. There will be an evaluation and assessment of your child and several meetings to arrive at agreement on the specifics of the plan.

• Although you are not required to have a lawyer, you may decide to hire one to represent your child’s interests or to appeal a decision. This could be quite costly.

The bottom line has to do with the seriousness of your child’s symptoms and how capable he/she is to take care of his/her health needs. You are the best judge. It is your decision whether you want to have a legally enforceable plan or if you are comfortable with a medical management plan. Whichever you choose, it is always a good idea to make sure everything is in writing. If you are in doubt, consult with your child’s doctor and an attorney, who has expertise in this area.


Dr. Meryl Ain has worked in several large Long Island, New York school districts as a central office administrator, teacher, and school building administrator. She shares her insights and expertise on her blog, Your Education Doctor. Dr. Ain offers consulting and other professional service to individuals, groups, teachers and school districts.






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College-Bound: What Every Student with Learning Differences Needs to Know

January 1, 2013 in Special Education Articles by Jess

During this time of year, high school juniors and seniors are hard at work preparing for college entrance exams, writing the perfect admissions essay, touring colleges, and eagerly awaiting decision letters from their institutions of choice. While this can be an exciting, yet stressful time for all students, students with learning differences have another level of factors that they need to take into consideration when choosing the right college. It is important for these students to not only consider the skills necessary to set themselves up for success, but to also be aware of the supports available to them at the colleges where they are considering attending. Read the rest of this entry →

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The Freedom Stick and “Massive Resistance”

March 28, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

In 1994 the United States government added the requirement to "Section 504" [1] that all schools (primary, secondary, post-secondary) which receive "any federal funds" ($1.00 or more per year, in any form, including student university loans), have accessible computers available, and a system of in place for information and communications technology which would offer students with "disabilities" real time access "equivalently." Read the rest of this entry →

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Top Ten Special Education Pet Peeves

February 27, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

Today’s blog post is meant to be cathartic for me personally. Since I spend my days entrenched in Special Education, I have become particularly sensitive to the following pet peeves. Wikipedia defines a pet peeve as, “a minor annoyance that an individual identifies as particularly annoying to him or her, to a greater degree than others may find it.” While some of the list below consists of minor annoyances, others make me down right angry.

1. Schools don’t diagnose they determine eligibility;

A day doesn’t go by without a phone call from a parent who tells me their child was diagnosed with Autism by the School District. School District’s DO NOT diagnose rather they have determined your child is eligible for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the eligibility category of Autism. The only person that can diagnose your child with Autism is a medical specialist. If you have been told by the School District that your child is eligible for an IEP under the category of Autism, I highly recommend you get an assessment performed by a trained medical professional. Read the rest of this entry →

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Can the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Help Your Child in School? Yes, Now More Than Ever!

February 26, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

If you're reading this blog, you've probably heard of the ADA - Americans with Disabilities Act – that’s the landmark piece of civil rights 1990 legislation which requires wheelchair accessible bathrooms, for instance.  But what you may not know is whether the ADA applies to your disabled child in school.  You'd think it would, right?  But then, why does everyone talk about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) all the time?  Well, Title II of the ADA does apply to your disabled child in school.  Not just with respect to students with physical disabilities in wheelchairs, but also to any student with a disability who needs "accommodations."  You may be more familiar with the term "504 Plan" which comes from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 - a precursor to the ADA.  The 504 law is very similar conceptually to the ADA - if you understand Section 504, you'll understand the ADA.  The good news is that there's new guidance from the federal government which clarifies (and even extends) how the ADA can help your child in school. Read the rest of this entry →

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Proposed DSM-5 Changes & Autism: Future Implications

January 23, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Much is being written about the new definition of autism spectrum disorders for the DSM5, most of it not positive. I have to admit, I am one of those persons who is not only very skeptical, but also very disheartened by the new criteria. (Read Here and Here) While Special Education Advisor has several other articles outlining their thoughts concerning the DSM5 and receiving services under the IDEA, (here and here) I have several caveats. Read the rest of this entry →

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Occupy CHOP for Amelia

January 14, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Dennise Goldberg

By now most of you probably know who Amelia is. If you don’t, she is a little girl with Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome that needs a kidney transplant and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has refused to perform the life saving surgery. They have decided against performing the surgery because Amelia has an intellectual disability. If you haven’t seen the blog I implore you to take a few minutes and read her Mother’s story. I have so many problems with this story I don’t even know where to start. The ignorance of these Doctors is mind blowing but here is the section of the blog that blows my mind:

I begin to shake. My whole body trembles and he begins to tell me how she will never be able to get on the waiting list because she is mentally retarded.

A bit of hope. I sit up and get excited.

“Oh, that’s ok! We plan on donating. If we aren’t a match, we come from a large family and someone will donate. We don’t want to be on the list. We will find our own donor.”

“Noooo. She—is—not—eligible –because—of—her—quality– of –life—Because—of—her—mental—delays” He says each word very slowly as if I am hard of hearing.

Make sure you read the exchange above a couple of times and let it sink in. This isn’t a story about not being able to find a kidney for Amelia!!! This is a story about a group of Doctors and a Hospital that have decided they will not perform a life saving surgery because the child has a disability!!!! CHOP has decided that children with a disability have a poor quality of life and thus are not worthy of saving. This is unacceptable, and the first thing you can do is sign this petition. The second thing you can do is go on CHOP’s facebook page and tell them what you think of them.

Now that you have done that let’s talk about how this should play out if we all really want to help Amelia. You see CHOP is a nonprofit charitable organization and according to their patient bill of rights all patients and families have the right to, “Receive care, treatment and services regardless of race, color, age, sex, national origin, religion, handicap, disability, sexual orientation, who pays for care or your ability to pay.” The website also says “Our commitment to improving the health of all children has remained constant over 150 years.”

So you see CHOP, in my opinion, has strayed from its mission to help all children and to not discriminate. These are offenses that should be reported. The first place to start reporting this would be the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals office. It is their obligation to investigate and revoke CHOP’s nonprofit status if they have strayed from their mission. I am not an attorney but it also seems to me this is discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I hope the parents consult an attorney, and if actionable, file a discrimination complaint and lawsuit against CHOP. The problem with either of these options is they will most likely take time Amelia does not have.

So this brings me to my final suggestion. According to Steven M. Altschuler, M.D. CEO of CHOP in the last annual report, “I’d like to provide a special recognition to our donor community. Your support is the engine that fuels our incredible staff s visionary ideas and helps us fast-forward them into real-life solutions. We cannot say it enough: thank you for your unwavering generosity and for traveling with us on the journey to improve pediatric healthcare.” The business of CHOP is not saving lives, but rather fundraising which is done through their foundation. Here is the contact information for the foundation. Let your voice be heard. Make CHOP understand that saying no to Amelia will not only hurt this family it can have substantial repercussions on their fundraising. How do you get a nonprofit to listen, you start with the foundation!!!! So I tell you all, forget Occupy Wall St. it’s time to Occupy CHOP.

I wish this family the best and hope they will find a surgeon willing to do the operation. Every child’s life is valuable and it’s not up to any of us to decide who should live or die.


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Is Your School District Trying to Balance the Budget on the Backs of Special Ed Kids?

January 11, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

Have you noticed that your child with Autism, ADHD, or learning disabilities is getting less attention from their special ed teacher this year? That their special ed teacher is particularly worn-out, fatigued – maybe even at wit’s end this early in the year? Well, there’s a reason for that. The most recent data gathered by the Washington, DC-based IDEA MoneyWatch shows how severely the states and the 100 largest school districts have cut special ed funding. Just this year in my work as a sped attorney in South Florida, I’ve seen some kids with Autism or severe ADHD being placed in classrooms with intellectually disabled kids primarily because it’s cheaper than giving them the support they’re entitled to in a general ed class! Read the rest of this entry →

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