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School is a normal part of childhood. For children undergoing treatment, school can offer a familiar and reassuring routine, as well as a feeling of being in step with the outside world. School gives children a chance to keep a sense of identity and hope for the future.
The mission of the School Program is to provide opportunities to continue normal educational activities and to provide re-entry services to ease the transition back to the community school.
To help, the St. Jude School Program offers several services to assist patients with their academic progress.
The St. Jude School Program is accredited as a Special Purpose School by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Hospitalbound educational services are provided mainly to those patients who live outside the Memphis area and have to be at St Jude for treatment. Patients from the Memphis area can be seen by a St. Jude teacher if they do not have access to homebound services.
Some children will need homebound services either in the Memphis area or in their home community outside the Memphis area. School Program staff can help parents arrange for these services. Usually for homebound services to be authorized, your child’s doctor will need to sign a document explaining the child’s illness. This will be either a letter from the doctor or a form provided by the school system. School Program staff can assist with this process and facilitate getting the form signed or the letter from the physician.
It is sometimes difficult for patients to return to school, especially when their appearance has changed due to hair loss or from other effects of their illness or treatment. The amount of time spent out of school and away from the structure of the school day also can make the transition more difficult. In order to make this transition smoother, St. Jude offers patients a School Reintegration Program. This is a joint project of School Program and Child Life Department.
Sometimes when patients return to school they will need special education services in the form of resource class assistance, accommodations in the regular classroom or physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy services. Public school systems are mandated by federal laws to provide these services to students who meet certain criteria.
School Program staff can assist parents and patients in seeking such services and can provide information regarding pertinent federal laws. School program staff may be able to attend a meeting at the school with the patient/parent to discuss provision of these services or may be available for a conference call during the meeting. See the websites listed below for information regarding provision of special education services and federal laws which mandate provision of such services:
The School Program does not provide educational services for siblings. Siblings will need to be enrolled in a local public or private school or be taught by their parent. If they are not here long enough for them to be enrolled in a local school, an arrangement will need to be made with the sibling’s home school to send assignments and tests on a regular basis and to give credit for work done on those completed assignments and tests sent back to the school.
School Program staff will be able to receive faxed and mailed assignments and tests from the sibling’s school and will assist in faxing or mailing the completed assignment back to the sibling’s school. School Program staff will also give parents information about local public/private schools.
How can a patient be referred to the School Program?
A patient can be referred to the School Program by parents or staff by contacting the School Program Director at 595-3346,contacting any teacher or through a School Program Consult in MILLI.
What if the community school will not give books to the patient?
The School Program staff can assist by making phone calls to community school personnel to explain the importance of using books and other materials from the patient’s community school. If this is unsuccessful, we will use our own materials to put together an appropriate curriculum for the patient. In doing so, we will strive to continue to work with the community school to make sure they accept our curriculum.
Are there materials available to send to the school to give them information about specific issues in educating children and adolescents with cancer?
Yes, we have written and video materials that can be sent to school personnel to help them to understand the issues our patients face in returning to the school environment.
What can I do if I am having difficulty getting appropriate services for my child in their community school system?
Contact the School Program Director at 595-3346 or ask clinic personnel to order a School Program Consult in MILLI. School Program staff can assist the family in understanding their rights under federal laws that govern the provision of special services in the school as well as make contacts with school personnel to advocate for the child’s needs.