School is one of the most important parts of a child’s life. Continuing to keep up academically and stay connected with classmates is important for all children diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder. Sometimes it is difficult and scary to return to school after their diagnosis and treatment or after a long hospital stay. The struggle may not always be due to medical reasons, but often the fear of classmates teasing them because of a change in appearance, worrying about keeping up with school work, or maybe feeling isolated from their peers.
The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, is a partnership between Children’s of Alabama, the UAB Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, the UAB Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, along with childhood cancer research entities, such as the National Cancer Institute and Children’s Oncology Group. The Hope and Cope Psychosocial and Education Program uses a family-centered approach to provide support and services for emotional health and well-being.
The STAR (School/Social Transition and Reentry) initiative is a service of the Hope and Cope Psychosocial and Education Program that provides patients with an education/school liaison who maintains ongoing communication between the medical team, the child’s school and their family. This helps the student return to a more normal lifestyle and to feel comfortable going back to school.
“We help facilitate the patient’s reentry to school when the oncologist medically releases them to return,” said Education/School Liaison Caroline Davis, MS, CSP. “Our goal in a reentry class presentation is to help the child’s classmates better understand the child’s diagnosis and cancer treatment journey, and to inform the teachers about any special accommodations the student may need in the classroom, or unique learning challenges the student may have.”
There are a variety of specialized services that the education/school liaison offers to the child and their family throughout their treatment and into survivorship. Here is a look at how the liaison can help.
- Aid the familyin understanding their child’s learning needs; to understand federal and state law, and how to advocate and effectively communicate with their child’s school system.
- Assist the parents in obtaining special education servicesor program modifications when needed, including collaborating on Individualized Education Planning (IEP) meetings.
- Accompany the parents to school meetings in person or participate through Skype (i.e., a software application that enables users to have video-conferences over the internet).
- Present workshopsto educate the school system about unique learning patterns of childhood cancer survivors and evidenced based recommendations.
- Help young people stay in touchwith classmates through use of webcams until they are ready to return to school.
- Prepare young people, parents, and teachersfor the return to school after a long absence and empower the child to better advocate for themselves.
- Give classroom presentationsto help classmates understand and support the young person living with a serious illness.
- Teach problem-solving skills and role playingto help the young person or family members with school adjustments.
Davis states, “When we go to the classroom, the child is often overwhelmed and scared about returning to school, but after we show their personalized presentation about their journey to the other students, you can see the child begin to interact with peers and be involved in the discussion. It is extremely rewarding to see such a change in their confidence and self-esteem!”
For information about this exceptional benefit and/or our STAR program, please contact Caroline Davis at (205) 638-5421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.