School is Starting and Some Kids Are Dreading it. What Can You Do?

CLINICAL PEARL: Don't say (or write) "Parents should get an IEP for this child who is struggling in school." Instead, say (or write), "Parents should consult with the school staff, a child psychologist, LDA Minnesota, or PACER Center, to assess and design a plan to meet this child's educational needs."

Many of our patients whose schoolwork or attendance is affected by chronic health conditions may benefit from creating a "504 Plan." This is a written agreement for curriculum adaptations, within a regular education program, which ensures the school makes "reasonable accommodations" to meet the child's educational needs, without incurring "undue burden" to the District. A 504 Plan is guided by Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act which says that schools cannot discriminate against a student for needs that reflect a student's physical or mental disabilities. It is NOT "special education" and NOT an "individualized education program (IEP)" but a 504 Plan can be very helpful to students who just need "reasonable accommodations" to succeed with regular classroom instruction.

FYI, for anyone who would like a more complete understanding of how 504 Plans work, MDE has put together quite a nice webinar -- this is what they are using to teach school administrators -- it's always nice to gain this "insider knowledge" so you can talk to the schools more knowledgeably. Feel free to share the link with colleagues (who can tell families about this) or with parents, who may be interested in pursuing a 504 Plan for their child. (Even if you've been familiar with 504 Plans forever, note that the recent ADA Amendments Act is a bit of a game-changer, generally for the better.) Happy Back-to-School Days!

Essentials of Section 504 Training Series
This webinar series provides important background, legal requirements, best practices, and guidance on the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The presentation addresses important school district obligations and responsibilities, frequently asked questions, important case law, and how the ADA Amendments Act affects Section 504.

Learn more about Section 504 resources on the following website:

Karen Wills, Ph.D., A.B.P.P., is a pediatric neuropsychologist at Children's Minnesota.

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