The thought of going to school and managing my diabetes at the same time—with gym classes, cafeteria meals, the occasional test stress—was scary enough. Having to stand up for myself and defend my ability to check my blood glucose, visit the nurse’s office as needed and even take water or bathroom breaks was an entirely different burden.
Fortunately, this burden was relieved for me when I secured a 504 plan that guaranteed the necessary accommodations to manage my diabetes successfully while at school. A 504 plan is a document made for students with disabilities, including diabetes, that combines input from the student’s doctor, family and school nursing staff.
When I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and returned to my sixth-grade class several days later, my family met with the school nurse and brought along a 504 template that my endocrinologist had started to fill out for us. In a nutshell, it stated that as a person with diabetes I needed to have access to certain snacks and supplies in order to keep my blood glucose levels stable. If they were not kept stable, my academic performance would suffer, and certain plans of action should be carried out for high or low blood glucose readings. In addition, the plan stated that I would be able to take care of my diabetes or have designated persons assist me at any time and in any place during the day. The 504 plan even addressed my being able to visit the water fountain and take restroom breaks as needed, how I would make up missed work due to sick days and a standardized testing procedure.
Overall, my 504 plan served as a guarantee that in any situation related to my diabetes management, there would be specific instructions and permission to follow them by the school and a medical professional.
Most schools should welcome the idea of a 504 plan to prevent any potential mistakes and keep things running smoothly for students with diabetes. Every 504 plan is different, although templates can be found through the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School program. Your endocrinologist may have examples to build from as well.
2010 National Youth Advocate and Volunteer, American Diabetes Association