Your Rights, One Voice: Mason’s Story

As a parent, you want the best for your child, from health care to home life to education. Raising a child with type 1 diabetes can make the stakes higher—even when everything is going well. But how do you react when a necessary part of your child’s life keeps him from success? That’s the situation Mason Stevens’ parents found themselves in when Mason’s school refused to provide him with a 504 Plan.

Some background: 504 Plans outline medical care and other accommodations that students with disabilities might need in the school setting. These plans ensure that students covered receive appropriate accommodations while at school, as well as equal treatment and access to school-related programs, trips and extracurricular activities. Under federal law, diabetes meets the definition of a disability, so public school students who live with diabetes, like Mason, should have a 504 Plan in place.

Nicole and Michael Stevens of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, approached Donegal Primary School to request a 504 Plan for Mason, who uses an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor, when he was in kindergarten. Rather than providing a 504 Plan, the school developed an Individualized Health Plan (IHP), which didn’t outline parameters or arrange extra time for education support for Mason based on his medical disability.

“It appeared the school wasn’t educated on how diabetes impacts a student’s ability to focus and learn, or how quickly blood sugar levels can change in a five-year-old,” Nicole said. “When we asked for a 504 Plan, we were told the school did not recognize diabetes as a disability and he did not qualify.”

Mason’s parents had also secured a private duty nurse to monitor Mason while at school to make sure his blood glucose levels remained stable. Unfortunately, the school began to rely a bit too much on the nurse rather than providing the extra support he truly needed.

Having only an IHP kept Mason from educational success on multiple occasions. For example, at one point, high blood glucose levels prevented Mason from being able to concentrate during a math test—to the point that he couldn’t complete it. This resulted in his teacher marking each incomplete answer as wrong. If Mason had had a 504 Plan in place, he potentially could have waited to take the test until his blood glucose levels came down.

This negative impact was even noted by Mason’s teacher. Report cards showed progress, but the teacher said that Mason’s challenges were prohibiting him from reaching his full educational potential.

Nicole and Michael knew that Mason needed more than an IHP, but the school stated that Pennsylvania state law required him to undergo a psychological evaluation to qualify for a 504 Plan. Nicole had read that this wasn’t the case (per federal law), and she turned to our Legal Advocacy program for help.

“At first, we trusted the school to follow the federal and state laws. So initially, we accepted the original plan of the IHP. However, as Mason progressed in kindergarten and we asked for amendments, we started to see that the IHP was not enough to ensure his education and Mason’s physical health was not being managed appropriately,” Nicole noted.

Our Legal Advocacy department confirmed that Mason was eligible for a 504 Plan and connected Nicole and Michael with Philadelphia attorney Alan L. Yatvin, who serves on our national Board of Directors and has significant experience with legal issues involving students with diabetes. With support from our Legal Advocacy team, Yatvin worked with the Stevens family as they negotiated a 504 Plan, making sure the school recognized its necessity—not an easy process.

“The school did not ‘embrace’ the 504 Plan,” Nicole noted. “The initial planning was awkward and uncomfortable.”

Finally, at the end of Mason’s kindergarten year, a 504 Plan was signed and took effect. With the plan in place, the Stevens family continues to work with the school to make sure Mason’s needs are being met.

According to Nicole, “Mason is [now] in first grade and is doing well—he likes school and excels in academics. The 504 Plan was a huge step in the right direction for us.”

There is still work to be done, such as a need for additional training and resources—for example, the Stevens family still relies on the private duty nurse to assist during the school day. But Nicole believes progress is being made: “We see small improvements with new staff at the school, and his teacher has been a great support. As Mason grows and can manage more on his own, we feel his needs can be fully met by the school in a few years.”

Thanks to the work of our Legal Advocacy team and Alan Yatvin, Mason’s family now hopes that he will enjoy the full, equal education experience that he deserves.

“It wasn’t until we connected with the Association’s Legal Advocacy program that we felt confident [that we had the] additional resources and staff to help us push forward to obtain what Mason was entitled to. It assured he would receive a fair and appropriate education regardless of his medical condition,” Nicole said. “Alana [our Legal Advocate] was the spearhead we needed and valued to get what our son needed and deserved as a child with diabetes.”

The American Diabetes Association leads the effort to prevent and eliminate discrimination against people with diabetes at school, at work and in other parts of daily life. If you need help, call 1-800-DIABETES or visit

Through our nationwide Safe at School® program, the Association is dedicated to making sure that all children with diabetes are medically safe at school and have the same educational opportunities as their peers. Visit our Safe at School website for information and resources.


Originally posted here on the ADA blog.

3 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill and “Go Further with Food”

You can take steps to make your food go further and reduce food waste by shopping locally, preparing meals in advance and storing food correctly. For National Nutrition Month® 2018, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics urges everyone to “Go Further with Food.” The following tips will help you do just that:

Shop locally. Shopping locally can be a great way to add healthful foods to your diet while conserving natural resources. Food purchased at farmers markets often is more affordable and tastes better than at commercial grocery stores because it is locally grown and naturally ripened. Buying locally grown food also helps conserve natural resources and has a minimal effect on the environment.

Continue Reading

Building Your Core

Whether you’re just starting out to work out or are a veteran, there’s one part of your body that is perhaps the most vital and shapes how the rest of your body can work out. It is the core. The core is a group of muscles throughout your torso, each providing support to your entire body. A strong core provides stabilization, balance, and power to the body during pretty much every activity. It is the basis of all of our powerful athletic movements. When we think or hear of the core, we often think of abs. But six-pack abs are not just the core. In fact, abs make up only a small part of your core. Here are the muscles that make up the core and ways you can strengthen your core. 

Continue Reading

Training for the Climb with Asthma

Don’t let asthma stop you… Learn how Dr. Renee trained for the American Lung Association’s Fight For Air Climb this March.

I have recently made a decision to participate in the Fight For Air Climb in Chicago on March 11, 2018. I know you are probably saying, “Why would someone volunteer to climb 180 flights of stairs?!?” On top of the physical challenge, I also have severe asthma. I was diagnosed with asthma when I was an infant, and because of great doctors and advances in research, I am at my healthiest. And I want to help raise funds to support the mission of the American Lung Association and others who struggle to breathe.

Continue Reading

Let’s Talk About Eggs

Let’s take a look at one of the staples of the American breakfast: eggs. Eggs are a popular meal cooked in a number of ways: fried, over easy, scrambled, poached, and hard boiled. Eggs aren’t only an important part of breakfast, but they are a great quick dinner or even snack. Due to the cholesterol content, eggs sometimes get a bad reputation, which has begun to change in recent years. Let’s take a look at how adding eggs in your diet can improve your health and how to avoid issues with cholesterol. 

Continue Reading

Digital Monitoring: Whoop

The Whoop Strap is a new take on fitness trackers. Most fitness trackers cover the same sort of metrics- measuring heart rate, counting steps, and calculating how many stairs you’ve climbed. These can be really helpful, particularly if you’re just starting your fitness and recreation journey. What if you’re looking for a wearable tracker that can help you monitor your performance? Whoop might be the fitness tracker for you. Instead of focusing on metrics like steps and heart rate, Whoop is more for athletes and looks at your physical activity and sleep to determine if you are straining your body or giving yourself enough rest. 

The Whoop comes with a host of features typical of a fitness tracker. Whoop’s claim to fame is that it stores 100 MB of data at a time; that’s about three days of data. It samples your metrics hundreds of times per second, giving insights into your heart rate, heart rate variability, and ambient temperature. It syncs to your mobile device via Bluetooth, and calculates your strain for the day, recovery score, and sleep targets. Additionally, the Whoop provides advice and insights on how to best take advantage of these numbers.  

Continue Reading

This Is My Truth. This Is Diabetes.

When you ask Jessica where “home” is, she pictures the Indian reservation in upstate New York where her parents are from. Jessica’s family is part of the Haudenosaunee—the people of the longhouses—where entire family units live together in one house with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and siblings. Close family ties define her community.

At nearly 16 percent, American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest prevalence of diabetes among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. Jessica knew she had a strong family history of type 2 diabetes, but didn’t think it would affect her until she was much older.

Continue Reading

Ancient Grains

Looking for an alternative to white rice? When it comes to grains, there are a number of options that go beyond white rice. White rice has long been a staple on the food plate, however due to the milling process, the husk, bran, and germ are all removed. The bran is rich in dietary fiber and essential fatty acids, among other nutrients. Instead, there are many other alternatives available. You probably know about brown rice and other healthy alternatives, but have you heard about quinoa? How about farro? There are other ancient grains that you can use to replace white rice and pasta, each with different tastes, health benefits, and preparation. Here are a few ancient grains you can try to add to your meal the next time you cook. 

Continue Reading
1 2 3 10