Anyone else contemplating 504 plans or IHP’s for next year? It’s far enough into the school year that we’ve won some battles at the school and lost others. We realize the positive and negative of our new school and need to decide if we should just roll with it or fight it via a 504.
When I mentioned that we don’t have a 504 to another food allergic mother she was aghast. She said I wasn’t being a responsible parent (ouch!). On the opposite side, when I spoke with the school this week they implied that a 504 isn’t necessary for food allergies because these plans are most often used for the learning accommodations of students with physical disabilities such as wheelchair bound students.
Personally I understand both sides. Food allergic parents, especially those of us who have had our children in school for a few years, know that the best intentions of others are unenforceable. Schools and administrators can change their minds on what they deem fair or necessary for our children. Without a contract there is no way to enforce promised inclusion.
The other side of the argument is that if we don’t push for a 504 maybe the school will appreciate the lack of paperwork and be more willing to work with us on inclusion and accommodations.
I can’t say what we are going to do because I don’t know yet but I thought I would share a great site with you about 504 and IDEA. The site is Allergysupport.org. Here is a great example of the helpful information I found on the site, written by Rhonda Riggott Stevens, MA:
“HOW IS A CHILD WITH FOOD ALLERGY ELIGIBLE?
Children protected under Section 504 are commonly those with ADD, ADHD, OCD, Diabetes, AIDS, Asthma (that does not affect educational performance) and allergy just name a few. The criteria by which a child with severe food allergy is eligible for protection under Section 504 is that the physiological condition / disorder of food allergy affects the respiratory, digestive, cardiovascular and skin body systems. The physical impairment of food allergy could substantially limit breathing during an anaphylactic reaction. In addition, the U.S. Office for Civil Rights U.S., Department of Education formally recognizes “allergy” as a “hidden disability.”
(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.”)
WHAT ARE HIDDEN DISABILITIES?
“Hidden disabilities are physical or mental impairments that are not readily apparent to others. They include such conditions and diseases as specific learning disabilities, diabetes, epilepsy, and allergy. A disability such as a limp, paralysis, total blindness or deafness is usually obvious to others. But hidden disabilities such as low vision, poor hearing, heart disease, or chronic illness may not be obvious. A chronic illness involves a recurring and long-term disability such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, high blood pressure, or ulcers."
(“The Civil Rights of Students with Hidden Disabilities Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 19743.”)
HOW DOES SECTION 504 HELP A CHILD WITH SEVERE FOOD ALLERGIES?
The legislators who wrote Section 504 purposely used broad and relatively non- prescriptive language so that the law would encompass a wide range of disabilities. Schools must give children protected under Section 504 an “individualized educational program” with “accommodations.” This program usually takes the form of a 504 Plan. The 504 Plan lists and explains the formal accommodations and modifications that will be made to the public school environment to ensure the least restrictive learning environment (LRE). The LRE must provide equal opportunities for children protected under Section 504 to the maximum extent possible as their non-disabled peers. A 504 Plan for a children with food allergy should have many components to address important food allergy issues so affected children have the best possible chance of staying safe.
(e.g., Amy is contact allergic to peanuts, one accommodation to the learning environment might be: All children in Amy’s class will wipe their hands with wipes upon entering the classroom.)
DOES THE WORD “REASONABLE” APPLY TO SECTION 504 “ACCOMMODATIONS” IN ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION?
“The clear and unequivocal answer to that is no.” (OCR Policy Letter to Zirkel, 20 IDELR 134, 8/23/93.)”
I’d love to hear what others out there have decided and why. What are you doing this school year or next about accommodations for your child’s food allergies? Are you asking for a 504 or an IHP? Why? Email me or comment below, this is such a big decision for food allergic families, it would be nice to chat about it!