School and Study
In many cases a diagnosis of cancer is very disruptive to schooling and other studies.
Children undergoing long-term treatments, for example for leukaemia, may have interrupted school attendance during treatment and at other times when they are unwell. They may miss their school friends and the social life that comes with being a student. This may be true also for young adults at university or other training institutions, and for well children, where the family has had to relocate for specialist treatment. At times the patient may feel bored, left behind or forgotten about by their friends.
Visits from friends, classmates or teachers can be very beneficial. If your child is undergoing treatment it is natural, as a parent, to feel that they may be missing out at school. Be assured however that children do catch up. In the meantime they often gain valuable experiences from their time away from school which can be a special bonding time with parents. The following are some suggestions which may be helpful for parents with school aged child undergoing treatment.
- Try to keep some contact with your child's school and encourage the staff and students to maintain an ongoing interest in your child's welfare. This will not only benefit them now but will also make the transition back to school easier. Your child's teacher may be able to supply lessons from school.
- Keep the teacher/school informed of your child's progress. Encourage them to keep in contact with the child through visits, phone calls, letters from class mates, cards or posters with thoughtful messages, videos or emails.
- When your child does return to school, encourage the teachers and students to treat the child as 'normal' - just as one of the class - while at the same time discuss any special needs they might have. Tiredness and risk of infection are important concerns.
- Talk to the teacher about the possibility of tiredness and strategies to reduce exposure to infection.
- Prepare other students for the way the child may look (for example baldness), how they might feel about returning to school (anxious, excited, self-conscious) and how they might make things easier for their classmate (acceptance, inviting them to 'join in').
- Allow the child to talk about their feelings about missing school or returning to school. Offer them support and encouragement.
- Ask the social worker at the hospital about arranging a guest speaker who can explain the illness to classmates. Ask the Leukaemia Foundation for further information about help available to you and your child.
- Most paediatric treatment centres have an educational psychologist, counsellor or school liaison officer who can help.
- In the case of university or other studies, contact your educational provider and ask about how they can help you to manage your studies. Extensions of time for assignments or deferring your studies may be an option.
- Organisations like CanTeen, Starlight Children's Foundation and Make-a-Wish Foundation can be a useful source of information and peer support during this time.