After Cancer: Returning to School

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Children who have cancer obviously have a lot on their plate. While getting better is understandably the first priority, it's just as important for children to find ways to keep up with their educational needs. Finding the right balance between healthcare needs and academics often involves a cooperative effort between parents, doctors, and educators. Here's what you can do to help your child continue their learning experiences as they recover.

Maintain Ongoing Communications with the School

Children with cancer and other medical issues in the United States are entitled to have accommodations made under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Make it easier for the school to make any necessary arrangements by letting them know what's going on with your child. Information you'll want to provide includes:

  • The nature of their condition
  • How long you expect them to be out of school
  • Whether or not they'll be able to return to school during treatment

Get Doctors and School Officials on the Same Page

Involve your child's doctors in the discussion about things like the ability for your child to handle homework obligations the regular commute to and from school. Get clarification from your child's doctors on whether or not their medications will affect concentration and what recommendations they have when it comes to school attendance and classroom participation. By getting doctors and educators on the same page, you'll likely have more flexibility with how your child will continue to learn as they progress through treatment.

Consider Individual Education Programs

Children who will be spending a lot of time away from school may need an individual education program (IEP). These customized goals will be specific to your child's needs based on input from your child's teachers and various school officials, including psychologists and counselors. An accompanying 504 plan may be necessary to allow for certain physical accommodations, including access to school facilities and special transportation arrangements. Your child may also be able to receive tutoring and assistance from an aide while at school.

Look Into In-Hospital Education

If your child isn't able to leave the hospital anytime soon, see if the medical facility offers in-hospital education. This may include special classes held within the hospital by certified teachers with other children who are also too ill to return to outside classrooms. Additional options may include:

  • Bedside instruction at times when the child is feeling well enough to participate
  • Prerecorded video lessons that can be viewed at the child's convenience
  • Streaming sessions directly from the child's classroom, if appropriate

Finally, if your child reaches a point when they can return to school, consider having them visit before their scheduled return date. This will give them a chance to interact with some of their classmates, answer some of their questions, and feel comfortable about returning. Also consider providing some information about your child's form of cancer to his or her teachers so they can better explain things to the other students.