You might worry about your child going to school during cancer treatment. But school’s an important part of every child’s life. And for many kids with cancer, the benefits outweigh the risks.
At school, they can forget about doctors, have fun with their friends, and just be themselves. Keeping up with schoolwork also means kids don’t fall behind or feel overwhelmed when they come back full-time.
Ideally, your child will be in school at least some of the time. When that’s not possible, there are many other ways to help your child can grow and succeed.
Hospital education coordinators, social workers, child life specialists, and your child’s care team are there to help. They can work with your child’s school to find the right learning options at the right time. Make sure your family’s care team and school talk to each other often.
Make sure you have a reliable contact person on each side.
Try to meet with teachers, the principal, and the school nurse as soon as you know your child’s treatment plan. Tell them when your child’s most likely to miss class. The first few days after chemo are usually the toughest.
Explain the challenges to the teachers. Ask if homework and tests can be postponed, when necessary.
Putting a plan in place for the school year helps make sure everyone is on the same page.
Make School Life Easier
Talk to the school ahead of time about things your child might need, like:
- A locker near the classroom
- Special meals and snacks
- A cap to hide hair loss
- Shorter hours, or a rest break during the day
Make Use of Hospital-Based Schools
Many children’s hospitals have their own schools. They’re designed especially for kids of all ages who are sick.
This is a great option if your child has to be in the hospital for a long time. Your child might not feel well enough to take lots of classes, but even an hour a day can keep them in the loop.
Ask About Homebound Instruction
If your child’s homebound, school districts in most states will send a teacher to your house for free.
Some kids with cancer go to school during certain parts of their treatment and learn in the hospital or at home during other parts.
The education coordinator at your child’s treatment center or clinic can work with your school to set up homebound learning.
Learn the Law
Individualized education plans, also known as IEPs, and 504 plans are legal ways to make sure that schools meet your child’s special needs. A 504 plan means you and your child’s teachers design a custom education program.
It might include things like:
- Extra time on tests
- Less homework
- Time away without penalty
It can also help your child ease back into school after treatment. Schools decide which kids need a 504 plan. You may have to stand up for your child’s right to have the plan or certain things in it.
IEPs help kids who need a special classroom setting and may not apply as much to kids with cancer.
Also, keep in mind that IEPs and 504 plans don’t offer the same protection to kids in private or charter schools.