Any parent of a T1, school-aged child will recognize the 504 — the document that ensures that our kids can get the same access to education as any other child in school. We’re lucky – our school is on top of the process. When I first spoke to the nurse around K registration last spring, she actually told me that we would need to do a 504 so I didn’t even have to explain why that might be needed (!).
We have our 504 meeting with the nurse, principal, and classroom teacher next week and I have to compare the 504 we created with the one the school sent to us. I’m sure it will be pretty close (is that why I keep procrastinating and haven’t done it yet??) and the meeting should be fine. The nurse also has a letter that goes out to every staff member in the school with pictures of the T1 students and an excellent explanation of what T1 diabetes is, why it matters at school, and what actions are important to take. The classroom teacher and nurse will have much more in-depth instructions, but this letter does a great job for those who will be on lunch or recess duty and might need to be aware.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of dealing with a 504 document, it is off-puttingly complicated. Things that seem so natural and mundane for the parent to take care of on a daily basis can take a whole paragraph (or more) to write out for the school. “Test before gym. If she is in X range, do this. If she is in Y range, do that. If she is in X range and Z happened this morning, then do this.” But while you are following all the instructions in this 4 page document be sure that you don’t treat her like she is different. Riiiiight.
If you haven’t already seen Scott’s from Arden’s Day post over on the DX – a letter to the new teacher – definitely check it out. It sums up so well the conflicting thoughts and emotions as your T1 goes off to school. We want the teachers to pay close attention and do everything needed to keep our kids healthy and in the best space to learn, but we don’t want our kids to feel different or singled out or as if there is anything “wrong” with them. Just like when I’m talking to babysitters and I need them to know how important every detail is (literally life or death) but I don’t want them to be fearful or to not let the Bear do anything because they don’t want anything to go wrong.
If you are looking ahead to needing to create a 504 plan there are many great examples online (like the ADA or CWD) and your endocrinology practice (CDEs) or your school may also have some time-tested examples that you could tweak to fit your child. Ask for help, talk about your fears and worries, and listen to the needs of the school. And, be prepared to be as tired as your child will be at the beginning of the school year.