Diabetes and Section 504

A mother finds frustration.

two extremesBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

July 2011 — Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. It ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications to allow for issues that arise from his disability or medical issue. Having a section 504 plan in place for your child with diabetes is supposed to make their life at school easier. But what do you do when it seems to repeatedly make it more difficult?

The latest issue to arise for our son happened last year when it came time to take an eighth grade state test. Because his section 504 plan states that he will be allowed time and a half "if he has a low blood sugar and it interferes with his ability to complete the test," he was removed from his class and placed in a classroom with all the kids who consistently need time and a half when taking their tests.

But wasn't section 504 about creating the "least restrictive environment?" How exactly is this the least restrictive environment for a student who typically finishes his work ahead of his peers, even when he does have a low blood sugar? Last year during his first Regents Exam, his pump malfunctioned and he still finished on time.

After consulting with people from other school districts and confirming that this is not how this is typically handled, and having the supervising nurse in our district confirm that this is not how this should be implemented in our district, no one in his school seems to be able to assure us that this will not happen again. Having a friend who is a guidance counselor in another district is very handy, and she reassured me that he can always refuse the accommodation. But should he even have to do that? Shouldn't they resort to giving him extra time only if he needs it? This is the exact wording of the section 504 plan, and when it was created, it was how we were told it would be put into practice. So why isn't this the way they implement it?

As we approached finals time this school year, we actually considered removing this piece from his section 504 plan just so he isn't set apart from his peers on the off chance that he will ever actually need to utilize the time and a half provision. What is more important for a 15-year-old who doesn't want to seem different from his friends? Who among us wanted to draw attention to ourselves in this way when we were in high school?

I am baffled that a group of educators would find the most difficult way to put something in place for a child with medical needs, rather than provide them with a mainstream setting to take tests in and offer them additional time only if needed due to medical issues. It is possible to treat kids with medical issues just like everyone else and allow them the safety nets they need just in case. It doesn't have to be an either/or, it can and should be both.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: May 30, 2013

All content on dLife.com is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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