When your child has a serious or chronic illness, it's hard
to think beyond the next treatment. While health is the first
priority, education also is important. You'll want to help your
child stay on top of schoolwork as much as possible and plan for
when he or she can return to school.
Not only does staying connected to school bring academic,
cognitive, psychological, and social benefits - it's also your
child's legal right. Under federal law, kids with disabilities
are entitled to educational support, and your child might
qualify for free services under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
With a little planning and a lot of communication, you can help
your child balance treatment and academics.
First, talk to your doctor about how long your child is
likely to be away from school and whether the treatment might
interfere with concentrating, doing homework, and meeting
deadlines. Are there side effects that might have an academic
impact? What does your doctor recommend when it comes to
attendance, tutoring, or studying?
Then talk to the teachers and school staff, and encourage your
child, if well enough, to do the same. It may be necessary to
set a reduced schedule or shift due dates for papers and tests.
With your help, your son or daughter can work with teachers to help
plan the workload. The more notice teachers have, the easier it
will be to come up with a flexible solution.
Some kids who spend a lot of time away from school or in the
Individual Education Plans (IEPs)
. These are customized goals and learning strategies created by the
teachers, school psychologists (or other specialists), and
IEPs take a child's individual needs into account. Under the
IDEA, kids who qualify for an IEP will receive one at no cost, in
addition to receiving free support services (such as a tutor) to
help them reach educational milestones.
IEPs can be requested by you or anyone on your child's
Seek Out Hospital-Based Support
If your child will be spending long stretches in the hospital,
ask a doctor, nurse, or child-life specialist about onsite
schooling. Many hospitals provide this service free of charge to
The two most common types of educational support include
. Typically, bedside schooling is for children who are too ill to
leave their hospital rooms or have weakened immune systems due to
chemotherapy. Other kids who are well enough might be educated
individually or in small groups in an onsite hospital
Licensed teachers who are K-12-certified in a variety of
subjects and special education work intensively with students to
make sure that they don't fall behind in their studies. To stay
on track, hospital-based teachers work closely with teachers from a
child's school to maintain curriculum continuity and ease
reentry into the classroom when the child is well
again. School is scheduled around medical tests and therapies,
and always takes a child's medical condition and strength into
Whether your child is being educated at school, in the hospital,
or at home, remember that getting better is the main priority. So
be realistic about what he or she can handle. Kids may feel an
unspoken pressure from parents, teachers, and themselves to
continue with schoolwork, and this anxiety could hurt
Maintaining ties with classmates and teachers can help your
child maintain a sense of normalcy during this difficult time. Your
child might even be able to listen to a lesson or join a class over
the computer. Programs nationwide offer free or low-cost laptops
for use in the hospital; check with your doctor or medical staff to
see if this service is available to you.
In addition to academic isolation, your child may feel cut off
socially from friends and classmates. Online social networking
sites, email, instant messaging (IM), text messaging, and talking
on the phone can help kids stay connected. Also consider
encouraging a letter-writing, email, or care package campaign from
classmates - you might even set up a collection box at school where
they can deposit notes and pictures. Arrange for visits from your
child's friends and, if your son or daughter is up to it,
take the group out to school plays, sports events, classroom
parties, and other social gatherings.
Staying connected will make for a smoother transition socially
and academically when your child returns to school after
Date reviewed: February 2009
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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