As I prepare for our annual 504 meeting with our school later this week, I am reminded about how far we have come. It was only in 2008, that Congress expanded the definition of who is eligible for federal protection. Now, individuals are protected- even if they don't suffer a disability all the time.
Prior to 2008, parents had to fight for any accommodations for their food allergic children at school. It was at the discretion of the school district how food allergy would be handled. When my child with food allergies entered school 5 years ago, we did not have any type of formal written agreement. The school did allow him to carry an EpiPen® (beginning in kendergarten) and a special food allergy table was established in the cafeteria. After a disappointing experience in 2nd grade, where he was excluded from making gingerbread houses with his grade due to his food allergy, we insisted on something more formal. We were offered an IHP, an Individualized Healthcare Plan.
The IHP was a document between us as parents and the school nurse. It was a good start, but not enough, as it didn't include key players within the school system like teachers, bus drivers and even the facilities and maintenance department (they're the only ones who knew the ingredients in the soap in dispensers near school sinks).
Enter last year and our first 504 Plan. We held a group meeting- parents, nurse, principal, guidance counselor, classroom teacher and head of facilities for the school district (also in charge of our bus company contract). Together we completed an individualized document to best meet my son's needs. This year my son will join the meeting and we will all work together to update the 504 Plan as needed.
The 504 Plan makes everything much easier because everyone, including the student, knows what they are responsible for. I like this recent article about 504 Plans for those who aren't familiar with federal protection for food allergic students.
Are most of you using 504 Plans or do you use other documents or tools at school?