Fall and the start of school seem far away – I mean, who can think about going back to school when summer is just around the corner?! That said, many of you are now sitting in front of a pile of forms thinking about 504 Plans for your children for next fall.
504 refer to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These plans are set in place to provide accommodations to school age children with disabilities (food allergies are listed among the qualifiers) to ensure that they are afforded equal access to learning and academic success as their peers.
These plans are created in collaboration with your child’s school and spell out food allergy management. In addition to a Food Allergy Action Plan, 504 Plans can cover a broad range of topics such as snacks and meals, storage of emergency medication, addresses classroom issues related to food allergies such as science projects and other manipulatives, as well as hand washing policies.
Many people, including school administrators, get 504 Plans confused with IEPs. An IEP is an Individual Education Plan which allows students with disabilities (often learning or cognitive disabilities) to receive specialized instruction and/or related services. IEP qualification is determined both at meetings and in conjunction with standardized assessments, as well as other data collection. 504 Plans are determined by looking at medical records. Both are federally funded programs: 504 Plans guarantee access to education while IEPs provide supplemental academic services.
I recently came across an incredibly thorough and helpful article written by Vivian Stock-Hendel on fellow blogger, Sharon Wong’s blog “Nut Free Wok.” Entitled, Food Allergy 101: 1, 2, 3…504 , you will learn everything you need to know about completing a 504 Plan and what to do if you need both a 504 and IEP.
Keep in mind, both plans can be used at schools which receive federal funding. If your child attends private school, ask someone in administration if the school makes food allergy accommodations through 504 Plans or by another means.
Best of luck!