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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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School Support

Long-term planning is key to success

Children and teens can usually continue school during cancer treatment.

School helps bring a sense of normalcy back into their lives.

Research shows that long-term survivors who attended school during treatment had better social skills, more self-confidence and were also less likely to have academic problems than kids who were in tutoring programs at home.

Each case is different. Cancer is a long-term illness.

Treatment may take several weeks to 2 years or more depending on what type of cancer the patient has.

After treatment, patients may experience symptoms (known as long-term or late effects) that could impact learning.

It’s important to make a plan for school early in treatment and re-evaluate it regularly.

Tips for continuing school during treatment:

  • Ask questions to find out what your child needs.
  • Find out what resources are available.
  • Keep lines of communication open. 
  • Be flexible.
Teacher's hand pointing to a place on a piece of paper with a cancer patient's hand holding a pencil.

Keeping up with schoolwork is possible during cancer treatment.

Ask questions

Developing a school plan starts by asking the right questions:

Questions to ask at the hospital:

  • Can my child attend school during treatment?
  • If not, what school services does the treatment center provide?
  • How do I get in touch with the appropriate contact person?
  • Is there a school liaison who can assist with communication with the school and setting up appropriate services?

Questions to ask your child’s school:

  • Who will be the contact person at the school?
  • What is the best way for my child to keep up with assignments?
  • Is there any specific documentation needed or forms to be signed by the child’s physician?
  • How will my child connect and collaborate with classmates (phone calls, e-mail, Skype)?

Find out about available resources

A hospital large enough to provide cancer treatment for children will have school services to support patients. The format varies depending on the hospital.

  • A school operated within the hospital
  • School services provided by the local school system
  • A liaison who can help coordinate services. Sometimes that person may be a social worker or nurse.
Make a plan for school early in treatment and re-evaluate it regularly. In this photo, a young cancer patient sits at a table working through school assignments.

Make a plan for school early in treatment and re-evaluate it regularly.

Keep lines of communication open

Regular communication with your child’s school will help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Consider designating 2 contact people to keep in contact regarding school matters – a school representative and one person with the hospital’s school program. This set-up will make sure information shared is consistent and accurate.

The school may already have a designated person. In elementary schools, often the child’s teacher or principal will coordinate. In middle and high schools, it may be a guidance counselor.

It is helpful to have an introductory meeting that includes parents, teacher(s) from the child’s home school, a hospital school program representative, and the child (if old enough).

This may occur through a conference call for those families who are away from home. Each person can ask questions. The team can set goals.

Topics to discuss:

  • How often the child or teen might miss school
  • How treatment may affect school performance, thinking skills, ability to pay attention, and emotional well-being
  • A regular schedule for school and hospital to check in with each other
  • Schedule of work so patients aren’t overloaded but will have what is necessary to move to the next grade
  • Alternate plans if patients cannot complete assignments because of illness
  • Homebound services
  • Classroom accommodations when patients return to school to be included as part of a 504 Plan
Explore school services and resources by talking with the hospital and your child’s school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. In this photo, a child undergoing cancer treatment completes a school assignment.

Explore school services and resources by talking with the hospital and your child’s school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Be an advocate

After a plan is in place, promote the needs of your child and make sure they are met. Older children and teens can also advocate for their needs.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may want a trusted family member or friend to help you stay on top of things. Also, your house of worship or community center may have resources.


Reviewed: July 2019