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School Issues > Giving Your Child's 504 Plan a Checkup


It's that time again! It's only three weeks into summer break and I am already thinking ahead about the next school year. I needto plan ahead because both of my children, now teenagers, have special medical needs. 

In many ways it was easier when they were in elementary school. There was one teacher to go to with needs, requests or questions, and who got to know my child fairly well throughout the year. There was also a smaller number of staff to educate about their medical requirements. 

When the kids move in to middle school, everything changes. They have six or seven different teachers plus other involved staff like coaches, counselors, etc. What could be done before with an Individualized Health Care Plan (IHCP) now must be done with a 504 Plan. Not only that, but the work load is much higher and they need the legal protections that a 504 Plan provides. As they move into high school, grades really matter so the legal protections become even more critical. 

And of course, everything is more challenging when dealing with a teenager. No longer do my kids go happily along with the decisions I make for them. Now, they are involved in making their own decisions about who, what, when, where and how they want people at school informed about their medical needs as well as how they will meet those needs for themselves. 

As teens, they are much more aware of and sensitive to standing out, appearing different or being labeled as a "sick kid". So it's an important balancing act to make sure, as the parent, I protect them from the unforeseen possibilities that they don't yet fully understand like extended and multiple hospitalizations that could impact their schoolwork and grades. The key to this balancing act is clear, open communication and good negotiation skills. 

The first step I take is to review the current 504 Plan with my kids to make sure they understand it and agree with the items. If they don't agree with the items, then we discuss and negotiate about them. 

For example: this year, my son- a sophomore- does not want to include the item "Common places in the classroom need to be disinfected on a daily basis". He does not want to make more work for his teachers and believes it probably won't make a difference anyways since germs are everywhere. So we agreed to change this item from "daily" to "regularly" which can give the teacher more flexibility. Jacob also agreed to be very purposeful about using hand sanitizer frequently and staying away from classmates with colds. 

We also think about the last school year and if there were any issues we ran into that need to be added for this year.

The next step is to make contact, early on with the school staff. Since we've been at this school for a while, this has become a routine for us. If you are new to a school, then read my other article about 504 Plans for tips on the steps involved in getting one set up. 

With knowledge about your child's rights to an education, a little planning ahead, and good communication, you can make sure your child's special medical needs are met in the coming school year. 

Link to sample 504 plan for elementary age students.

Link to sample 504 plan for middle and high school students.

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Lisa C. Greene, MA CFLE

Lisa is a national public speaker, writer, certified family life educator, and a mom of two children with cystic fibrosis. She is also the co-author with Foster Cline MD of the award-winning Love and Logic book “Parenting Children with Health Issues.”   Lisa's mission is to help parents learn practical, easy-to-use tools to deal with the everyday challenges of raising kids. Her message is: "You can do it!"


For more of Lisa's writings, see www.pcwhi.comand www.HappyHeartFamilies.com   

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