Perhaps your child has missed several days of school. Maybe your child has even missed weeks of school due to being unwell or hospitalized. Your child may complain about feeling ill or frequently needing to use the bathroom during the school day. Maybe he or she has even had an accident or other embarrassing situation occur while at school. Or perhaps none of this has happened yet, but your child is anxious that something will happen. The anxiety may be impeding academic success or hindering relationships with peers and teachers. Any of this sound familiar? School can be a challenging environment for a child diagnosed with IBD. A 504 plan may be able to alleviate some of the burden.
What is a 504 Plan?
The name “504 Plan” is derived from Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, a federal civil rights law. This law allows for students with disabilities impairing at least one major life activity to receive the same level of education and opportunities as students without disabilities. In the case of irritable bowel disease, going to the bathroom/toileting is the major life activity that is affected. A 504 Plan provides an avenue for certain accommodations or adjustments to be made to ensure that the student with IBD receives the same quality of education as other students. The goal is to remove any barriers to education so that the diagnosed child has equal access to learning and equal educational opportunities. Typically, a 504 Plan is created by the conjoined efforts of the parents/guardians, the student, and the school. It is important to note that this law is a federal law, which means that it applies to public schools. This law may also apply to some private/other schools but only if the school in question receives federal funding. In short, any school that is receiving any amount of federal funding is legally required to provide the necessary accommodations for a student with a documented disability.
What Types of Accommodations can my Child Receive?
The types of accommodations that your child receives will largely be dependent on how your child’s diagnosis manifests. Plans can be adjusted to accommodate your child’s needs. That being said, here are some accommodations that students with IBD may be able to have:
Please note that not every child with IBD will need every single one of these accommodations. Every IBD diagnosis is different, and every diagnosed child’s needs are unique. Accommodations listed in the 504 Plan are selected based upon several conversations that include the child, the parents/guardian, and the school. Additionally, the above list of accommodations are merely suggestions, and the list is not exhaustive by any means. It may be beneficial to seek the advice of your child’s GI specialist or healthcare team when discussing possible accommodations for a 504 Plan as well. They might have some insight on potential accommodations for your child and their unique medical situation.
How do I Start the Process of Establishing a 504 Plan for my Child?
There are several interventions that you can implement in order to initiate the process of establishing a 504 Plan for your child. Here are some suggestions:
Other Considerations When Creating a 504 Plan
When initiating the process of obtaining a 504 Plan for your child, there are several things that you should keep in mind.
Talking With Your Child About Their 504 Plan
Creating a 504 Plan and making sure your child is accommodated for in an educational setting can be stressful. Please do not forget that your child is a huge part of the process. After all, the phone calls you will need to make and meetings that you will need to attend are ultimately for their benefit. Do not be afraid to involve your child in the process! One day they will need to be able to advocate for themselves, and you want to be able to teach them the skillset they need to be the best advocate they can be. In order to involve your child in the process, you will need to do so in an age-appropriate manner. You know your child best and will be able to discern the level of involvement that your child will be comfortable with. Ask your child what types of accommodations they would like to receive. Ask your child if certain interventions would be helpful to their learning and comfort. Ask your child how they feel about certain accommodations and let them know that it is okay to be open and honest with you. Your child may have fears related to “being different” or “standing out.” Let your child know that these are normal feelings and help your child to work through those feelings in a healthy, constructive manner. Seek outside help from a professional if you feel it is necessary. Make sure you review the plan with your child before you sign it to ensure they are aware of what accommodations are available to them. Involve your child and take into account their feelings in every step of the process!
I hope the information on this page was useful to you as you navigate your child’s IBD journey in relation to their formal education. If you would like more help or have any questions, you can feel free to reach out to me using my email address linked below. Please know that there are options for support available as well. Being a parent of a child with IBD can be challenging. Understand that a having a 504 Plan in place for your child does not mean you are seeking special privileges for your child. Instead, you are seeking to provide your child with the same quality of education as other children. IBD Connect offers a virtual caregiver support group that meets one time monthly. There are several families who attend that have 504 Plans implemented for their child. We also have an in-person family support group, a virtual family support group, and a virtual young adult support group as available options for support. If you would like more information about these groups, click the link at the bottom of this page. As always, I would like to remind everyone not to use this page as a substitute for a professional medical opinion. For more detailed information regarding IBD or if you have questions pertaining to your child’s individual treatment plan, please seek out the professional medical advice of your child’s doctor. Stay strong IBD Warrior parents!
For More Information and Further Reading:
Hi! My name is Emily Fournier, and I am a wife, mom, and registered nurse currently living in MA. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing in May of 2020. Since graduation, I have had experience working as a registered nurse in both a hospital intensive care unit and a community health center. Throughout my nursing career, I have had several opportunities to care for IBD patients of all ages, which has allowed me to gain a thorough understanding of IBD from a medical perspective. Through my friendship with an individual diagnosed with Crohn's disease at a young age, I have also been able to see how IBD affects every aspect of an individual, whether it be physically, socially, mentally, or emotionally. With Emily’s Gut Check, I hope to combine my medical expertise with a more holistic approach to IBD care in order to provide support and encouragement to anyone affected by IBD, but especially to parents of a child diagnosed with IBD. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me at email@example.com if you have any questions, need advice, or have an idea for a blog topic to cover. Thank you all for being on this journey with me!