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Diabetes and School - Know Your Rights

The resources for diabetes management are there if you know where to look. Don’t be afraid to ask for support. People generally want to help if you make your situation known. It’s okay to use all the advantages you can to help you succeed!

Diabetes and School - Know Your Rights

It wasn’t until 1973 that Congress enacted the Rehabilitation Act to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination. According to the American Diabetes Association, individuals with diabetes are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as people with disabilities, which includes access to schools, public places, and workplaces. 

Is Diabetes a Disability?

If you’re recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you may not be aware of federal rights protecting individuals with disabilities at school, and diabetes is considered a protected disability. It wasn’t until the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 for People with Diabetes, which used a scientific explanation of the disease to demonstrate the need for coverage.

Know Your Rights

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the rights of people with disabilities. It specifies that any institution that receives federal funding for programs and activities from the U.S. Department of Education shall not discriminate. “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall, solely because of their disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under a program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

What is a 504 Plan?

According to the American Diabetes Association, a 504 Plan is a document you can create to protect your child’s rights against discrimination. It ensures that the individual is granted the same education as every other student and is allowed the time and space to handle their diabetes management in a safe environment.

Which Schools Does the 504 Plan Apply To?

These laws protect discrimination against children and adults, including diabetes, in any program or activity receiving federal assistance. This includes all public schools, daycares, and private institutions that receive federal funding.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a 504 plan for college, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act doesn’t apply to students once they graduate from high school. But keep reading to learn higher education rights for diabetes care.

Diabetes in College

Diabetes is considered a disability because the condition has significant side effects that can impair learning. T1D can affect a person’s education as it inhibits learning capabilities due to low and high blood sugar. Diabetes management is a daily effort. Read on to see what challenges type 1s might face in the classroom: 

T1D Classroom Curveballs

Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia) 

When a person’s blood sugar drops too low, their hypoglycemia can cause confusion, unusual behavior, inability to complete tasks, loss of coordination, and slurred speech.

High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia) 

When an individual’s blood sugar drops with hyperglycemia, they feel sick to their stomach with abdominal pain, rapid, deep breathing, dehydration, increased heart rate, and headaches.

Exercise 

Exercise can cause the blood sugar level to rise or drop drastically. As physical activity helps control blood glucose levels, being active makes your body more sensitive to insulin. In gym class, it's a good idea to keep juice or tablets nearby.

Stress

Stress can affect blood sugar levels and, if not controlled, can cause the blood sugar level to remain high, which puts individuals at risk of complications, like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

Hormones 

Hormone variations can affect low and high blood sugar levels, as insulin resistance is a side effect of some types of hormonal imbalances. The most common hormones include growth hormones, sex hormones, and stress hormones. 

Attention Disorder 

When glucose levels drop or rise quickly, it affects the individual’s ability to concentrate.

Memory Loss 

Extreme fluctuations in blood sugar inhibit focus and retention.

Higher Education – Know Your Rights at College

Even though there are no IEPs or 504 Plans in college, T1Ds still have the right to diabetes care when needed. Especially since more cases of adult-onset diabetes are being diagnosed, more students are entering universities nationwide. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act still protects students from discrimination when they get to college. Universities are required to provide accommodation for students with diabetes.

Types of College Assistance

Sending your child away to school is hard enough, but when they have a condition like diabetes, it opens a world of worries. Knowing the various university services is essential to help ease your concerns. Another difference between high school and college is that you must be proactive and seek the offered benefits. Self-advocacy with diabetes care is a big part of learning to live with this condition. The ADA offers a College Diabetes Network, a self advocacy guide for students, While the Diabetes Link, is a national non-profit that specialized in helping young adults navigate issues at school.

Higher Education Support:

  • Extended time on exams
  • Permission to make audio recordings
  • Reduced course load – Individuals may need a doctor’s note, and financial aid might be affected
  • Priority registration for courses
  • Access to voice recognition software, audiobooks, and text-to-speech programs
  • Counseling and support groups
  • Tutoring mentoring programs
  • Student support groups

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