After your child has been diagnosed with a severe illness, it can be hard to focus on their education. However, research has shown that long-term survivors who attended school during treatment had better social skills, increased self-confidence, and were less likely to have academic problems than kids in tutoring programs at home. In addition, school can help bring a sense of normalcy into a child’s life that has otherwise been upended. Though, each case is different. It’s vital to make the transition to resume schooling while in treatment as smooth as possible. With that said, we have pulled together some tips for parents to set their children up for success while acting as their advocates throughout the process.
The first step for developing a school plan is to ask questions! Knowledge is power, and figuring out the answers to a few key questions can give shape to what your child’s education framework will look like moving forward. The hospital where your child is receiving treatment can help to provide clarity to questions concerning your child’s ability to attend school.
Questions for the hospital:
- Can my child attend school during treatment?
- If not, does the treatment center provide school services?
- Is there a school liaison who can assist with communication with the school and setting up appropriate services?
If your child is cleared to attend school, the next set of questions should be directed at the school. The first step is to make them aware of your child’s situation and set up a plan to ensure any accommodations necessary are provided.
Questions for the school:
- Who will be the contact person at the school?
- What is the best way for my child to keep up with assignments? - Children undergoing treatment may miss more school because of appointments, feeling unwell due to side effects, etc. A plan should be made so that your child has a way to make up work and doesn’t fall behind.
- Is there any specific documentation needed or forms to be signed by the child’s physician?
Seek Out Resources
You are your child’s greatest advocate, and you may find through asking questions that there are gaps between what your child needs and what their school can provide. There may be resources available to you that can fill those spaces. For example, some larger treatment centers have schools within their hospital solely for their patients. You may also look to your local school system to see if they offer services that may not be available at your particular school. A liaison can help you coordinate services between the hospital and school. A social worker or a nurse can often fill this role. There may also be services specific to your area that can help you navigate these waters.
Keep Communication Open
Keeping communication lines open between you, your child, your child’s physicians, and their school is of the utmost importance. Things change day to day, and keeping those lines of communication open ensures everyone is on the same page. However, the most important person to be communicating with is your child. Ask your child how they are feeling and what they feel they need. How they are feeling and behaving will shape the accommodations they need day-to-day and guide which you will be in communication with to ensure your child’s needs are met. Being open and flexible will allow you to shift gears when things don’t work as they did before.
On days when your child is out of school, find out the best way for them to keep in touch with classmates, be it through facetime, texts, or zoom, so they feel engaged with their peers. Being away and only with adults can feel isolating. Schedule calls or visits if possible so they can have some “kid time.”
Keep in mind Your child may have good and bad days but the more you as a parent seek out resources and talk to those providing care for your child, the better position you are in to advocate for them. School can be a haven of structure and normalcy day-to-day during a time that may feel scary and disorienting to your child. Take each day one step at a time and let your child know you will be there with them, hand in hand.