Why do you want to have a Section 504 Plan in place at school for your child’s food allergies and asthma?
This article is the highlight reel from an interview about setting up a 504 plan for food allergies and asthma on The Itch Podcast with Kristin M. Osborne, a Trained Disability Advocate and founder of The Prioritized Group. Listen to the full interview on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Play.
What is a 504 Plan for food allergies?
The plan is from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It is a law that says there can’t be any discrimination in schools based on disabilities such as food allergies, asthma, ADHD, or a child who may have a physical impairment.
The 504 Plan is tailored to make sure that the student has the ability to learn in the classroom without their disability, impacting them. This consists of accommodations that are set up to help protect the student and the school.
It is suggested parents set up a 504 Plan the moment their child enters the school system. Note that a 504 plan is for preschool, elementary school, or high school that is federally funded. If your child attends another form of schooling, ask what they have in place that is equivalent to a 504 Plan.
What do you need to qualify for a 504 plan?
If you think your child would benefit from a 504 plan in school, you want to make sure that you ask for an eligibility meeting with your school. Eligibility includes that your student has a physical, or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, such as but not limited to, breathing, walking, or speech.
504 accommodations for food allergies
When outlining the accommodations you would like to see for your child, it is important to make sure that you put it in writing as opposed to giving a verbal request. The best is to always follow up in an email. Send it to the administrator and the 504 coordinator. In all public schools, there’s a 504 coordinator for each individual school. There is also a 504 administrator or director that oversees the county or school system.
TIP: It’s always good to leave a paper trail.
Having a 504 Plan is important to have even if you have a great relationship with a teacher or administrator; the plan lists all accommodations in a very detailed manner.
Common examples of 504 Plan accommodations for food allergies:
- No food in the classroom.
- Your child sits at the free-from table in the cafeteria.
- You receive advanced notice, whether it’s 48 hours or 72 hours, of food being included in an activity. You have access to reading ingredient labels on packaged foods.
- There is a safe snack list all parents use for celebrations involving food.
Common examples of 504 Plan accommodations for asthma:
- If your child has some difficulties during certain seasons and they miss a lot of school, the accommodation states that when the student returns to school due to an asthma-related illness, they have 50 percent more time to turn in their work or do a project. They can also ask for additional time to not take a test as soon as they return.
- Your child can self-carry their rescue inhaler.
- In physical education (P.E.), your child is exempt from certain activities.
What happens if the 504 plan is violated?
Typically, if the 504 is violated, as a parent first listen and ask, was it a miscommunication on the school’s part? Do they need to be reminded again? Does this continue to happen? Did they blatantly disregard the accommodation?
Next use Kristin’s honey and hot sauce method. First, you bring the honey by initially reiterating the accommodation. Do this via email. Suggest how things could be better next time. If you have done this multiple times, then it is time to bring out the hot sauce. This can look like taking the case to the district-wide 504 coordinator, who understands the legal side of a 504 plan and how it should be executed. Typically most problems are resolved on that level.
But if that’s not the case, then talk to the office of civil rights. Again, most issues are resolved on a lower level.
504 Plans need to be renewed every school year. A pro tip is to bring your child with you to the meeting. This will help your child learn more about how to advocate for themselves and it will help all the parties involved see the person who needs the accommodations. There is nothing more powerful than having your child explain to the staff why they need accommodations and how they feel when they are not met.
Listen to the podcast episode wherever you get your podcasts!
Kortney is your typical atopic triad! She manages asthma, eczema, environmental and food allergies. Kortney is a co-creator of the online community Allergy Travels and co-host of The Itch Podcast. She wants to spread joy in a community that can easily see the hard side of life with atopic disease and believes that you can have a full life with food allergies, it may just be lived a little differently!