As the parent of a child with cancer or a blood disorder you probably have questions about your child’s return to school. Below are answers to some of the ones we get asked the most.
- When can my child return to school?
Your child can return to school as SOON as the medical staff determines it is safe to do so. The doctor will consider your child's type, frequency and duration of therapy. A child may return to school as soon as he/she is physically and emotionally ready.
- Should my child have home instruction?
Treatment for cancer and blood disorders is difficult enough on the child both physically and emotionally having them return to school will give them a sense of normalcy. A decision to use home instruction is made by the family, medical team, and school on a case by case basis. Having your child stay home does not necessarily offer complete protection from infection. The child will also greatly benefit by being in classes with their peers.
- Can my child take gym class?
Physical activity is healthy and as long as the child feels up to it, gym class is fine. Exercise is always important. It is crucial that the child be restricted as little as possible. For children with central lines and mediports, we recommend that direct contact to the chest be avoided. The medical team will evaluate each child on an individual basis and suggest accommodations that best suit your child's diagnosis, treatment and needs.
- How dangerous is chicken pox?
It is a big concern for children without antibody protection who are undergoing treatment for cancer. The school needs to notify you about an outbreak as soon as possible so an injection (VZIG) can be given to help the child fight the infection. Ask the teacher to send a letter notifying parents that an immunocompromised child is in the class. The letter can request parents to notify the school nurse about infections as soon as possible.
- Are there any other illnesses I need to be concerned about?
Yes, without naming specific illnesses (viruses and bacterial infections). Good communication between the family, school and treatment team will enable appropriate interventions to be made.
- What can I do about the medicine my child needs during the day?
The School Re-entry Team can review medication administration and make arrangements with the school nurse.
- Can my child wear a hat/bandana/scarf in school?
Yes. Exceptions can be made to school policy, however the entire staff MUST be made aware of this exception. Discuss with the teacher, principal, and school nurse the necessity of covering your child's head. It is important to protect the head from heat loss and sun exposure.
- If my child is having difficulties in class is there help?
The best appoach is to have the School Re-entry Team contact your child's school up front before problems develop. However, we can meet with the school personnel at any time. The team will discuss the side effects of therapy and how learning may be impacted. Recommendations will be made to best evaluate your child.
- Can my child develop learning problems as a result of cancer or a blood disorder, or their treatment?
Research indicates that children receiving certain types of therapy may be at increased risk for developing learning difficulties. Additionally, some blood disorders put children at increased risk for learning problems. Please discuss this with your medical and School Re-Entry Team.
- What resources are available for my child at school?
Your child may have certain rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and/or section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Children diagnosed with cancer may be eligible for help under the "other health impaired category". Contact the School Re-Entry Team to learn more about these laws and available educational services in your district.
- What if my other children are having trouble in school?
It is important to remember that when treating a child with cancer or a blood disorder, the whole family is affected. Siblings may feel left out or act out for attention. They may be concerned about their brother's/sister's return to school and related issues (teasing). They may have their own academic struggles due to familial stress or the parents' decreased ability to assist the well child with schoolwork. It may benefit the sibling to seek support from school counselors.
- What can I do to prepare my child for return to school?
Ask your child if they have any specific concerns. Teach them to practice simple answers (My hair fell out because of my medicine; it will grow back). Remind them to ignore teasing and walk away. Ask the teacher about a buddy system, to pair the child with a "safe" person. This can be any individual the child can trust and go to if something happens.