My middle school daughter was diagnosed with migraines at 8 years old. She takes her medication at home only because I don’t have enough to send to school. The school says her absences are unexcused medically and considers her chronically truant.
School policy says a student will be excused for medical reasons when the parent writes a note. I have written a letter explaining her condition, her doctor has written a letter, and I’ve written notes for absences, but the school will not excuse her.
First: Tell the doctor you need an additional prescription so one prescription bottle can be left at school. There are legitimate reasons why the school nurse does not dispense medication that is not in its original container.
Second: Write a letter (see sample)… to the nurse and ask for a copy of your daughter’s medical file. The school nurse keeps a record of all student visits to her office, the reason for the visit, and any medication dispensed. You want to have the same information about this the school has.
Third: Rewrite this medical plan for migraines instead of diabetes http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/parents-and-kids/diabetes-care-at-school/written-care-plans/diabetes-medical-management.html.
- Have the treating physician approve it and sign it.
- Deliver signed copies to the principal and school nurse.
If you need help with wording you can look up migraines here. You are going to run it by the doctor when you are finished anyway but this will help you get the wording right. You want the descriptions in the plan to be accurate and useful to those who read it.
Request Eligibility for an IEP Under IDEA
A 504 plan accommodates a disability.
An Individualized Education Program (IEP) provides specialized instruction, such as when a child has a learning difference or when a child cannot attend school as other children do, i.e., when a child cannot attend on a regular basis for medical reasons. Other Health Impaired is a disability category under IDEA, the special education law.
Fourth: There is a sample 504 plan at the American Diabetes website as well as the medical plan that I referred to above. However, I do not recommend preparing the 504 plan from the diabetes website in your situation.
Instead, I recommend that you write a letter similar to the letter below and request an eligibility meeting under IDEA. Your daughter needs:
- the missed instruction
- any future missed instruction
- an alternate method of instruction, not just accommodations
Use this letter template to request an eligibility meeting for special education / specialized instruction:
April 18, 2009
Nathan Weiss, Director of Special Education
Reference: Melissa Anne Smith
Dear Mr. Weiss:
My daughter ______________ was diagnosed with ______________ when she was 8 years old. Since then she has had multiple __________ and has often missed school due to ____________.
I am requesting an eligibility meeting to discuss ______________’s diagnosis and need of specialized instruction due to her frequent medically related absences. I would like this meeting to be held as soon as possible. I realize that this is a very busy time of year for all of the staff at the school and your anticipated cooperation and assistance in helping us help ______________ is greatly appreciated.
Please feel free to call me either at my home, 555-555-1212 or my cell phone, 555-666-1212.
[Both parents should sign this and both go to the meeting if at all possible]
Enclosure: another copy of the medical plan
Next Steps: Tell Your Story Well
What you need in the IEP is a plan to provide your daughter with the instruction she misses when she cannot attend school and a plan for how tests and homework will be made up or adjusted so that she will learn the same information, but so there will be enough flexibility that it can be done around her medical needs. The plan will be followed by her teachers and administrators. You and your daughter are the experts on what is working, what has worked in the past, and what is not working.
You told your story well in your letter to me (we used only part of it for this blog post). Use that as a guide to prepare your comments for the meeting.
- Make copies of your written concerns for everyone at the meeting.
- Ask, in writing, that a copy of your written concerns be part of the meeting record and part of your daughter’s school file.
- Write up a list or plan before the meeting and have enough copies for every one there.