Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 promises equal opportunity for Americans with disabilities. It guarantees accommodations in federally-funded programs and services. You can file a 504 Plan in public schools to arrange accommodations for your child with celiac disease.

A group of children smiling and holding each other in a circle.

Having a child with celiac disease poses unique challenges both for you and your child. The lifestyle changes – and how they are managed – that come with a diagnosis of celiac disease can be difficult during the school-age and college years.

Celiac Disease Foundation has developed this Back-to-School and 504 Plan Guide to help you and your child transition safely through these changes. In this guide, we offer suggestions for age-appropriate ways of managing celiac disease and non-celiac wheat sensitivity at school and college to ensure good health, proper development, and academic success for your child.

Individuals with celiac disease have different needs at different times in their life. Because of these special needs, celiac disease is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This designation is particularly relevant in certain public establishments, like educational institutions, from pre-school to college.

It is important to advocate for your child’s needs to ensure that you receive the resources and accommodations that are necessary for your child to live a healthy life and to thrive developmentally and socially.

If your child is in a public school system, or attends a private school that receives federal funds, a 504 Plan is the federally recognized method of detailing any and all accommodations that need to be made by the school to assure that a child with a disability receives an appropriate education.

Section 504(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibits discrimination in all institutions receiving federal financial assistance, including schools, on the basis of disability, including certain diseases. The law requires that these schools remove barriers to learning, which include accommodating a child’s gluten-free diet and disability needs.

Does My Child Need a 504 Plan?

Parents may not think a 504 Plan is necessary if their child does not seem to have barriers to learning at school or college, or if the school administration is accommodating their child’s needs. Know that without this document, however, any verbal conversation you have with teachers and administration does not legally need to be honored. A 504 Plan must be renewed annually and can remain in place throughout the years within a school district, making transitions between grade levels easier.