IBD and School Accommodations: Establishing a 504 Plan

Being a student with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), can be a stressful experience for children and their parents. Concerns about access to restrooms, missed school days and homework and the general impact of managing a chronic illness within a school setting are common.

The establishment of a 504C plan (a legal document which provides for school-related accommodations for students with medical conditions), can be helpful in reducing stress for both families and students and allow a child with IBD to reach their full academic potential. Most children who have been diagnosed with IBD are eligible for a 504 plan. There are a few exceptions, so speak to your social worker or psychologist about eligibility if you think your child’s school does not offer 504 plans.

Here are the necessary steps to ensure your child gets school accommodations.

Contact your child’s guidance counselor or special education coordinator to get a 504 meeting scheduled.

Gather documentation. You will need to request a 504 letter from your child’s IBD team. An IBD RN coordinator, social worker or physician can provide the documentation needed for the school meeting.

Get informed. Check out the school resource links on the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. There are lists of common accommodations to request, as well as a many other resources to review.

Come prepared. Bring a copy of common accommodations for school personnel and any necessary documentation to the 504 meeting. Be prepared to advocate for any special accommodations for your child (i.e. my child’s medication makes her nauseous in the morning which makes her 15 minutes late for school a couple of times a week).

Be an advocate and know your rights.

    • Request a copy of your child’s 504 plan once it is completed and signed.
    • Ask how the 504 plan is communicated to your child’s teachers so they can be aware of the plan.
    • Don’t be afraid to request the plan be reviewed if your child’s medical issues change.

Be Proactive. It is important that all teachers are aware that your child has a 504 plan and what accommodations are in it.

    • Talk to your child’s teacher as early as possible about your child’s 504 plan. Don’t be afraid to ask if the teacher has read your child’s 504 and provide them a copy if not.

This is a great time to provide some education to your child’s teachers about IBD and set the tone for a collaborative relationship early on. If your child is in middle school or high school, having your child participate in these conversations, or even lead them, can be a great way to help your child develop self-advocacy skills.

Finally, it is important to remember that a 504 plan is just that – a plan. It takes everyone; the teacher, school administrators, parents and student to put it into action. Having a good working relationship and open communication with your child’s teachers and school personnel is important to help troubleshoot any challenges and help your child feel comfortable using the accommodations in their 504 plan.

For more information, visit the State of Ohio Department of Education website to learn about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and your rights as a parent or click here to learn more about the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

Rose Schroedl, PhD
Rose Schroedl, PhD, is a pediatric psychologist who specializes in the psychological care of children and their families with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other gastrointestinal disorders. She is also the Clinical Lead for Psychology Services in the Division of Gastroenterology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her clinical interests include self-management of chronic illness, treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, non-pharmacological treatment of GI symptoms and interdisciplinary treatment for GI disorders.
Marci Johnson, LISW-S
Marci Johnson is an independently licensed social worker who currently works with the department of Gastroenterology and focuses on the IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease) population. Marci received her bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and her Masters in Social Work from The Ohio State University. Marci has a background in behavioral health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and enjoys working with the GI population and specifically chronic illnesses.

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