How to Prep Kids with GI Issues and Their Teachers for the Upcoming School Year

Families across the nation are preparing to get their children the upcoming school year. Whether in a classroom setting or via e-learning, it's crucial to establish the appropriate protocol for children who are affected by digestive health issues. Advanced preparation consists of meeting with your student's school administrative team to make certain they know of the gastrointestinal concerns affecting your student. Preparing ahead of time also brings an opportunity to create a 504 plan for your child.

What to know about a 504 plan

Section 504 is a federal law that was legislated to guard the rights of individuals with disabilities who are involved in activities and programs that obtain federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. Under this law, a school district is under obligation to ensure a "free appropriate public education" (FAPE) to every qualified student who has an impairment in the school district's jurisdiction, whatever the type or severity of the impairment.

As a federal law, Section 504 applies only to public educational institutions and additional establishments that receive federal funding. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) grants Section 504 coverage to all entities at the state and local levels, including private schools, irrespective of whether they receive financial support from the federal government. In addition, this law applies to academic, nonacademic-based (assemblies, recess, and lunch), and after-school programs. Thus, a 504 plan guarantees each student has equal access to activities and learning, despite any qualifying disability.

What is the process for filing a 504 plan on my child's behalf?

If your child is living with persistent digestive concerns, the school supervisory staff should be apprised of your student's medical condition. Initiating a 504 plan enables faculty to be alert and appropriately equipped when a child is out of school for several days or adjusts times they arrive at and depart from school due to their gastric-health concerns.

- The beginning step is to collect medical documentation for your child’s needs. This generally includes any type of written documentation or information pertaining to the nature of your child's handicap and associated needs, including medical assessments, records, evaluations, and any further health-related information. Additionally, it can be helpful to put together any progress reports or other types of education-related paperwork or assessments.

- At this point, it is time to draft and send an official letter or request regarding the Section 504 plan to the school's administration, including the 504 plan coordinator. Commonly, this is also the individual in charge of Individual Education Plans (IEPs). IEPs are specific educational plans created especially for a student with a disability. This document should describe your child's health diagnosis and any relevant needs your student may have in relation to their digestive issue. The letter should also contain examples of the variety of circumstances your student may experience during the school day and the accommodations you are requesting.

- After you have provided this documentation to your child's school administrators, the Section 504 plan evaluation process will start. Throughout this process, the school officials will study the documentation you offered, such as medical files, schoolwork, evaluations, and other forms of information. The school administrative staff may also wish to conduct interviews with you and your child, your student's instructor, or further administrative officials in accordance with this assessment process.

- When the 504 plan evaluation proceedings are over, the school administration team will probably request a meeting with you and your student to decide their eligibility. Parents may ask to schedule a meeting at this point as well. In the event your student doesn't qualify for a Section 504 plan or you cannot come to terms on the content of the plan, you could contemplate a dispute resolution approach. If your student is approved for a 504 plan, however, you and the administrative team at the school will move forward with curating your child's specific plan.

Gastrointestinal problems can cause a challenge for school-aged children. However, a Section 504 plan can help make certain their needs are accommodated and met during the school year. At Digestive Health Associates of Texas, our skilled GI physicians are passionate about helping parents increase the health of their kids. For assistance with digestive diseases, call our Dallas, TX team today.