Advice from a former parent of Walden Behavioral Care’s Adolescent IOP
The start to the school year is usually filled with mixed emotions by parents. And if you have a child in treatment for an eating disorder it can be a pretty scary time as well. But your clinical team at Walden is very experienced in creating relationships in the community, perhaps in your school, and can be a bridge in advocating for your child’s needs during the school day. Rely on your clinicians to give you an honest answer as to where your child is in their treatment plan, and to identify and create a support net for the school day.
The first step you can take as a parent is to identify who (if anyone) at the school to discuss your child’s treatment with. It is a personal decision, and one to think over the ramifications with your team. Our team helped me identify those at the school who would be in a position to render aid. The school nurse was one and the administrator was another. It is important to identify who at your school is the administrator responsible for overseeing children on health plans or accommodations under Chapter 504. A 504 plan is a binding, written plan outlining accommodations, services, and/or programs that will be provided to your child in school. Sometimes it is the administrator who is responsible for developing health plans and sometimes it’s someone at the district level. Identifying who this person is, is important if you are seeking support for meals or accommodations like removal from physical education classes or health class during treatment. Chapter 504 is a federal mandate and part of the Federal Civil Rights Act protecting all students coming under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is separate from the Special Education Act. In order to seek accommodations under section 504 for a health plan one needs to provide a letter of diagnosis from a physician, or treatment clinician stating a diagnosis and stating the accommodations sought. It is a flexible document that can be rescinded at any time. If your child’s classmate has diabetes for example, likely they have a 504 health plan as well.
We filed a 504 health plan seeking accommodations for meal support and identified the school professional who would support my daughter’s lunch while at school. It was the adjustment counselor, but it could have been the nurse. My daughter went to her office to eat lunch. It was supported and I was made aware that day by email whether lunch was completed or not. I was to supplement any uneaten food with Ensure at home that night. The school needed some inter communication from our treatment team on how to provide meal support. And, to be honest, they balked at first at providing meal support as they had never had a student with an eating disorder. But it is likely that your clinical team has written materials and may be willing to speak to the school and advocate for meal support that is consistent with your child’s treatment goals. It can take some calm and some patience to go through this process, but remember that you are your child’s best advocate. And together with the treatment professionals at Walden, your child will have allies against the eating disorder that can assure the best chance at full recovery.