Now that school’s back in session for some students and approaching near for others, it’s important to be prepared in order for your child to have a successful school year. For students with celiac disease, this can be an added stress when facing a new school year. Many parents prepare their gluten free children by packing their lunch, educating them on the importance of avoiding gluten and speaking with their teachers. However, sometimes this just isn’t enough.
Some of you may know that professionally I’m a Behavior Analyst and my primary area of focus is autism, however my background is education and I have a Master’s degree in School Counseling, so 504 Plans are something I personally have experience with.
Did you know getting a 504 Plan can can help ensure a gluten free environment at school for your child with celiac disease?
What’s a 504 Plan?
” Section 504(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive Federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). Section 504 provides: “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 . . . .”
The Section 504 regulations require a school district to provide a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) to each qualified student with a disability who is in the school district’s jurisdiction, regardless of the nature or severity of the disability. Under Section 504, FAPE consists of the provision of regular or special education and related aids and services designed to meet the student’s individual educational needs as adequately as the needs of non-disabled students are met.”
What does this mean?
Basically to put this definition in simpler terms, a 504 Plan is a legally binding document detailing any and all accommodations that need to be made by the school in order to assure a student with a disability (pre-school through college) receives an appropriate education. Section 504(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination in all institutions receiving federal financial assistance (including schools) on the basis of disability, including certain diseases.
Does celiac qualify for a 504 Plan?
Yes! Celiac disease is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2008 to include eating as a major life activity.
Why would you want a 504 Plan for your student with celiac?
A 504 Plan will clearly state which accommodations will legally need to be made in order to safely attend school and participate in activities. Having this plan can help eliminate any confusion on what needs to happen.
What will a 504 Plan provide to students with celiac?
*These are just some samples, it could vary student to student.
- Gluten Free lunches at school
- Unlimited bathroom privileges
- Gluten Free classroom and art supplies
- Safe access to field trips and school sponsored camps
- Notification of holiday parties, birthdays and classroom activities involving food
- Microwave access
- Refrigerator/freezer use for storage of gluten free foods
- Lunch monitoring for young students
Steps to getting a 504 Plan:
- Educate yourself on exactly what they are and how it will help your child. This will help you to advocate for your child.
- Request a letter from your child’s doctor about their celiac diagnosis and required gluten free diet.
- Find out who the 504 coordinator is at school (this could be various school personnel) and schedule a meeting.
- The first meeting may just be with the coordinator to discuss the process.
- At the second meeting when the plan is written, ask for all teachers that will interact with your child to be present so everyone is on the same page.
- Make copies of the plan!
Do all students with celiac need a 504 Plan?
This is completely up to families to decide what is best for their student. My biggest recommendation is to have open communication with your child’s teachers and other school staff from day one.
I hope you found this information helpful and hope your kiddos all have a wonderful time back at school!
*Make sure you head back over next week, because I’ll be posting Back to School Part 2: Tips for Navigating a Gluten Free School Year