Setting Up a 504 Plan at School for Depression and Anxiety

Hi, I’m Deborah. And I’m Lawrence and I’m sick. Yeah. Actually, we’re both sick but, um, I’m used
to being sick because I’m sick all the time because of the medicine – Yeah, well, I’m suffering here, all right? My MS, my MS medicine makes me sick all the
time. I know you are. You’re like never sick and you seem really
sick. But you were just at your computer, so…playing
– Because I don’t care about myself. (Laughs) I don’t care about resting. I should, but… Anyway. So, um, today we’re doing a video on 504 plans
for school. So I guess the first question is why ask your
school or school district to create a 504 plan if they’re – you are a kid or you know,
you, you have a child who has depression and/or anxiety. And, there are a lot of concrete reasons,
which we’ll go over, but I think the first reason that comes to my mind is actually not
as concrete, and that is to, to change the attitude of the teachers. One thing we ran into with Lawrence’s – that
we realized when we had the 504 plan done for Lawrence’s migraine – is that it would
help the teachers to understand what was going on with him. You know, you said, for instance, that you
had trouble with teachers when like, when you put your head down on your desk, thinking
that you just weren’t being cooperative or weren’t, weren’t engaging in the class and
stuff, you know? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I got in trouble a lot last year for
either being distracted, just not properly paying attention, like – just, just – And sometimes – A lot of the time I just put my head down
and just did nothing. Yeah. And you know, it’s – so teachers get annoyed
– understandably – if kids aren’t participating, but sometimes there are good reasons. And the thing is, also the 504 plans usually
call for the teachers being educated as far as the disability – you know, about the disability,
so they’ll understand it. Because a lot of, a lot of educators are not,
you know – they, they can’t be expected to understand every single disability really
fully, but this, this makes sure that, you know, one aspect of this makes sure that they
do understand the disability, at least to some extent. So I guess the next question is pretty basic:
what is a 504 plan? So a 504 plan is basically a blueprint that
the school creates, with input from the parents, and usually from the doctor that diagnosed
the depression or anxiety. So it’s basically a blueprint to supporting
the child with a disabilities in school and removing the barriers to learning. Um, you may wonder about using the term disability
in reference to anxiety or depression. Anxiety and depression – mood disorders and
anxiety disorders – are considered disabilities. They’re frequently referred to as “invisible
disabilities.” So I guess the next question is, “Why is
it,” – are you still alive? I’m awake. Why is it called a 504 plan? And, I’m going to have to read from this. So “Section 504 is a federal law designed
to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities and programs and activities that
receive federal financial assistance from the US Department of Education. Section 504 provides no otherwise qualified
individual with a disability in the United States shall solely by reason of his or her
disability be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected
to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” So, so, this kind of leads into the next question,
which is, “Why do you ask for a 504 plan instead of an IEP?” So an IEP, an Individualized Education Program,
is, is not always – but more often – needed when a child needs, needs educational assistance
specifically – Like when they have a learning disability. Right. they need either special education or individualized
instruction. But, so in, in most cases, when you’re talking
about depression and/or anxiety, they need accommodations; they don’t need specialized
education. So, and, and, for this reason you should have
– it should be less complicated, and you should face less resistance from a school district
when you ask for a 504 plan. Because for the, for the most part they are
not going to have to spend money. They’re not going to have to use a special
education teacher or a tutor or anything like that. It’s really just about accommodations, so
some so some, for instance, suggested accommodations would be – so for instance, for anxiety, provide
classroom seating where the child is most comfortable. So if they’re most comfortable in the front
of the room, in the back of the room, in the middle, on the side, next to the window – whatever. Offer written instructions for assignments
in addition to spoken instructions. And actually, that would have helped if we’d
done one for ADHD, that’s for sure. Let the student sit near the back of the room
or near an exit during assemblies. Um, some, some students, especially with anxiety,
sometimes with depression, may have a real problem with crowds and need to know that
they’re close to the exit, especially if they are worried about having an anxiety attack. And then another possible accommodation for
anxiety is a permanent pass that will let them leave a room when necessary without having
to check with the teacher in case of an impending anxiety attack. So for depression, there are a couple of things. For instance, one thing would be allow the
use of a tape recorder during a lecture. Now, a lot of people don’t know that depression
can cause a problem with concentration, problem with focusing. So – That explains a lot. Yeah, so that’s something, for instance, an
example of how it would help just to have the 504 plan and then the teachers will – I’m on the verge of death. I know. So another, another thing to consider for
accommodations in a 504 plan for a child with depression would be side effects from medication
and handling those. So maybe, for instance, they’re not allowed
normally to have a drink with them in the class. If they have dry mouth from a medication then
the 504 plan would say, yes, they’re allowed to have a beverage. So I mean, that’s something that would happen
just at UC Berkeley, where I work, because a lot of the classrooms don’t allow any kind
of drinks. So a couple things you need to understand
is there are only certain things that the school districts *have* to do for 504 plans
by law. So it’s, so the information – for instance,
our 504 plan – what happened with that is we basically – Stop. What? I’m just trying to rest. So for instance, when we had to do the 504
plan for your migraines, we just, I believe, emailed the principal and we, we had to make
a formal request by email but then she set it up and we brought documentation, etc. And it was perfectly fine. So, but that was easy. That’s not – it’s not gonna be that easy in
every single school district. Because, um, uh, let’s see – the law doesn’t
even require that the plan be written or have parent input, okay? So there are a lot of holes in this – in the
law as far as, um, as far as, um – I hate MS. Um, I can’t remember the word. What? Which word? Oh! I hate MS. It makes me forget words.As far as implementation. So, so, um, so in some school districts you’re
gonna have to be pushier then you would be in others. So, um, one, just, one site that has amazing
amount, an amazing amount of information which is really good, including how to follow up
to make sure that the plan is working and is being implemented, is So that’s one reason we’re not going to go
into a lot of detail. For one thing, because we’re not experts,
but also because – I’m dying. This (laughs) because this website covers
everything. But so, so, most school districts, however,
will use written 504 plans. Ours, when we had Lawrence’s done, for his
migraine – I think she had a software that she was – a software program that – she was
asking the questions – I’m dying. He’s not dying. And plugging in the answers into and it created
the plan. But, um, so, so 504 plans, you know, have,
have certain specific elements – you know, all them will have certain specific elements. Um, one of them, obviously, is the diagnosis. Another one, obviously, is, is what steps,
you know, what accommodations need to be taken, but that’s pretty much bare-bones. So we’re also going to include a link to a
sample 504 plan below – uh, a sample 504 letter and, um, for you to write as a parent and
a sample 504 letter for the doctor to write. So the steps, the steps you’re going to take
to start the 504 proc- plan process is – one thing you need, at a minimum, is a diagnosis
from the doctor. And you’re going to also need to have all
supporting documentation for the diagnosis. So, for instance, with Lawrence’s, you know,
with Lawrence’s migraine, we had tons of documentation from UCSF. If we had done one for his ADHD, we would
have brought, you know, the tests that the doctor ran that – you know, for ADHD and the
diagnosis. And I think there was also something from
his kindergarten teacher filled out, talking about, you know, that the doctor – How I was annoying, and wouldn’t shut up. No. She was a wonderful kindergarten teacher. Actually she was the one who suggested he
get diagnosed. But anyway, she – the doctor had her fill
out a questionnaire. So, you know, we would bring that too for
the 504 plan. Stuff like that, everything you have. And hopefully, if you’re lucky, the doctor
will also be able to write the letter requesting specific accommodations. Um, psychologists – most psychologists will,
will be able to do this, so it’s something that you can’t be shy about. You have to, you know – if, if they don’t
suggest it, then, then, you should ask it they can do it. This is something they should be able to do. So, so, you’re going to then make a formal
written request for a 504 plan. Um, so, address this to whoever the 504 coordinator
is. Each district *has* to have one. They may be on-site in the school or they
may be, you know, somewhere else in the district. And you can, and you can find out who they
are by talking to the principal. So I realize we’re kind of skimming over a
lot of, a lot of information here really quickly. We may do a follow-up for um, you know, with
some more in-depth stuff but Lawrence is really sick and I don’t want to do – Kill me. Make him wait any longer than necessary. Um, so we hope this has been helpful, and
if you have any questions, please feel free to post them below and we’ll get, you know,
we’ll get whatever information we can get you. And so we’ll see you next time. Are you still alive?

3 thoughts on “Setting Up a 504 Plan at School for Depression and Anxiety

  1. This video was very helpful. My son is a senior in high school and was diagnosed with depression in the middle of his junior year. It has affected his schooling. I am now in the process of requesting the accommodations for his 504 program and had no idea on what to request. Thank you!

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