A 504 plan is a part of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The act prohibits discrimination based upon disability. The 504 plan goes on to offer accommodations for children who have an impairment that substantially limits major life activities and, thus, their ability to learn. Asthma is considered such a disability because it impairs breathing.
Most schools will have one person in charge of administrating the 504 plan process. Often it is the school principal or counselor. If you have questions about whether this plan might be beneficial for your child, get in touch with your child’s school and set up a meeting to discuss all of your concerns.
If your child is already falling behind due to their asthma, the principal, counselor, your child’s teachers and even your child’s doctor can also help determine if your child would benefit from the 504 plan. They may look at grades, doctor’s reports, absences and test scores to decide if a plan is needed.
When the school writes up a 504 plan for a child they will identify the issues and come up with modifications to give the child an “equal opportunity to education.” This might range from allowing more time for work missed due to asthma to be completed or allowing an air purifier in the classroom. There are some good examples of accommodations you may need for your asthmatic child.
Children who are under a 504 plan will still be expected to perform and it in no way insures that your child will get good grades. The children under a 504 plan will also be expected to behave in accordance with school rules and appropriate discipline, as related to their disability, will still be doled out
If your child is doing well in school and having no issues with learning, it may not make sense to do a 504 plan. This is the case with our twins, who both have asthma but have managed to keep straight A’s (despite missing quite a bit of school). In their case they have what is called a Medically Fragile Plan. This plan may also go by other names like Health Management Plan. This plan is a written description of their illness, medication needs, asthma action plans, allergy action plans and any additional information their teachers may need to facilitate learning in spite of asthma or missed days.
We are blessed to be part of a school that communicates and works well with us. That having been said, we always have the option to lay out a 504 plan if needed down the road. Be proactive for your child so there is a plan of some kind in place. This eliminations miscommunications and can prevent your child from falling behind. Plus, it makes for a much happier school year for you, your child and their teachers.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.