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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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The Common Core Standards: How Will They Change Teaching and Assessment?

May 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

As of May 11, 2012, forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and two American territories have adopted the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  That means, whether your state is one of the adopters or not, CCSS are changing the face of education.

So what are the CCSS and what does this all mean for your child?  The Common Core State Standards are a set of expectations for what students should learn during the course of their educational careers.   CCSS create a measure of continuity across state lines in the content that will be taught and, more importantly, raises the bar for students and teachers alike.  States and territories using CCSS are charged with teaching standards that are often more complex than most states’ current academic content standards—demanding a change in how teachers present information to their students as well as demanding a deeper level of comprehension from the students themselves.  How is this achieved?  CCSS requires a focus on higher-order thinking questions and skills.  For instance, in math class, rather than asking which numbers are even, students will be asked which numbers are even and how do they know that (i.e., the numbers are divisible by two, they have a pair).   English Language Arts (ELA) is now explicitly tied to history/social studies, science and technical studies, meaning that all of these content areas will require complex thinking and analysis rather than rote memorization. Look at the difference between these two questions: 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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A Matter of Trust

March 22, 2012 in Special Education Articles by Jess

During my monthly neighborhood support & study group meeting this past week, our local KDDs group (Kids with Differences & Disabilities) focused on first steps toward becoming strong advocates for our children with differences & disabilities.

As a group, we are reading through the book From Emotions to Advocacy by Pete and Pam Wright, a terrific guide for parents who are just getting started down the road of advocating for their children with learning disabilities, autism, ADHD, speech language disorders, emotional health issues, developmental delays and other special needs.

As a starting point for learning about how to advocate for our kids, our parent group focused a lot during the discussion on two main advocacy goals that the Wrights suggest in the book. First, your role as your child’s advocate within the public school setting is to ensure that he/she receives a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). 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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FAPE vs FAPE: IDEA & Section 504

January 31, 2012 in Special Education Advisor Blog by Doug Goldberg

The term Free Appropriate Public Education is thrown around a lot in Public Education. There are two separate laws having to do with disabilities that specifically define this term. It can be found in the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). So what exactly is the difference between the two definitions? Let’s start by looking at how each law defines FAPE. Read the rest of this entry →

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