All parents have questions when they send their child off to school for the first time, or to a new school. Will my child like their school and teacher? Will they get on the right school bus? Will it be a positive environment?
As a parent of a child with food allergies, you also wonder about your child’s health needs and safety. What will they eat? How will they be able to safely take part in school activities? What if they have a food allergy reaction at school?
Questions like these are normal for parents of children with food allergies. You will need to work with the school staff to figure out how they will manage your child’s allergies at school. How will you ensure that they do? The key is to be proactive and partner with your child’s school. The goal is to create a complete school health care plan.
Every student with food allergies should have a school health care plan. A school health care plan lists your child’s common symptoms, medicines, and what to do if they have symptoms. It may also outline what school staff should do to prevent allergic reactions.
Three of the most common types of school health care plans are:
- Emergency care plan (ECP)
- Individual health care plan (IHP or IHCP)
- Section 504 accommodation plan (also known as “504 plan”)
An IHCP outlines what the school will do to create and maintain a safe school environment for your child. For example, an IHCP will detail what school staff will do to reduce the risk of allergen exposure, recognize an allergic reaction, and give the appropriate treatment.
A Section 504 plan is a contract between you and your child’s school. It addresses how the school will accommodate your child’s food allergies.
If the school already has a solid plan in place for managing food allergies, your child may not need a 504 plan. But, if your child is eligible for a 504 plan, you could request a 504 plan to make the terms of the management plan legally enforceable. (In some cases, your child may not qualify for a 504 plan.)
You as the parent or guardian can work in partnership with school personnel and your child’s doctor as appropriate to develop the contents of your child's IHCP or 504 plan based upon their unique health and safety needs while at school.
The Kids with Food Allergies’ (KFA) School Zone answers questions you may have about 504 plans, such as:
- Does my child need a 504 plan?
- Does my child qualify for a 504 plan?
- What’s the difference between a 504 plan and other care plans?
- How do I get the 504 plan process started?
- What sort of accommodations should I ask for?
- Does my child’s school have to follow the 504 plan?
- What happens if there is no school nurse on site?
- Do I have to get the plan in writing?
- What do I do if the school refuses to accommodate my child?
- What if the school does not follow the 504 plan?
- What happens if we move to a new school?
- What happens when my child goes to college?
If you are considering a 504 plan for the next school year, now is a good time to start the process. It can take some time to set up a 504 plan. Follow the steps on our 504 plan article to get started.