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For Caregivers: The St. Jude Imagine Academy by Chili’s

School is an important part of childhood. It gives your child a chance to keep a sense of routine and self. We encourage your child to go back to school as soon as medically appropriate.

Teacher writing on media board in classroom

The St. Jude Imagine Academy by Chili’s can help your child keep up with schoolwork while they are away from school. We can also help when they are ready to go back. We will help you make sure your child gets the right services when they return to school.

Services we provide

Our 3 main programs are:

  • Hospital-bound and homebound educational services, including:
    • Services for English as a second language (ESL) patients
    • Services for students with visual impairments
  • School reintegration services
  • Advocacy services 

Your child’s care team may refer your child to our school program. If they do, we will meet with you and your child. We want to learn the following about your child:

  • School
  • Grade level
  • Need for school services
  • Need for school interventions

We will also talk with you about ways we can help enhance your child’s educational experience while they are in our school program. 

Homebound services

Your child may need homebound services. These services are available both in Memphis and in your area. We can help you get these services.

Your child’s doctor may need to sign a document explaining your child’s illness. This authorizes homebound services. We can help you get both the document and the signature.

Hospital-bound services

Hospital-bound services are usually for St. Jude patients who do not live in Memphis. A St. Jude teacher can work with patients from Memphis who do not have access to homebound services.

Your child can stay enrolled in school while using hospital-bound services. Your child’s school will change your child’s status to homebound. Our teachers will then work with your child until you can go home.

Your child should use books and assignments from your regular school as much as possible. Your child’s St. Jude teacher will contact your child’s school to request these things. We will provide them if we cannot get them from your child’s school.

Once enrolled in hospital-bound services, your child will get at least 3 hours of instruction each week. Your child will attend class regularly. They will be assigned homework just like they would be at their school.

Our classrooms are open every day. Please check with your child’s teacher to find out what hours are available for instruction.

ESL services

Our ESL teachers can help patients whose native language is not English. These patients can attend ESL classes. Patients may complete their courses in English when they reach intermediate to advanced levels of English proficiency.

Bilingual instruction is available to Spanish-speaking and French-speaking patients who want to complete their work in their native language.

ACT and SAT exams

Your high school student may need to take either the ACT or the SAT exam. Your child’s school may provide both test preparation and test-taking services. If they do not, we can provide these things while your child is at St. Jude.

When preparing for these tests, your child will need to do 2 things:

  • Apply to take the test
  • Study for the test

Sometimes patients need extra time to take the test. Others need to work on the test for several days. Test accommodations can help with this.

Your child can request these accommodations when they apply to take the test. 

We can help you organize application materials. We can also help fill out the application to make sure your child gets the accommodations. 

School advocacy

School advocacy coordinators can talk with you about your child’s condition and treatment. We can help you understand and prepare for how these might affect school and learning. We can also assess for transition-related school needs.

We can help you understand your child’s educational rights according to education law. We can work with your child’s school to advocate for your child’s educational needs. We can:

  • Help your teachers understand how your child’s diagnosis and treatment affects school and learning
  • Talk with your teachers about services and strategies to help your child succeed
  • Help others understand how serious illnesses impact school and learning
  • Provide disease education and awareness to school staff and students
  • Work with your St. Jude health care team to make recommendations for the classroom
  • Attend Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings
  • Attend 504 Service Plan meetings

The school advocacy process involves several steps:

  • Assessment of the patient's school situation
  • Data collection, including getting information from educational and medical records to build a full picture of the patient's needs
  • Review of school documents, including IEPs, 504 Plans, evaluations, and progress reports
  • Work with multidisciplinary teams at St. Jude
  • Develop a plan to help your child succeed. This may include:
    • Special testing
    • Providing a letter to the school that outlines your child’s diagnosis, treatment, impact of treatment on learning
    • School recommendations
    • Referral to other agencies or St. Jude personnel

Academic support and educational plans

Most St. Jude patients succeed with classroom accommodations provided under a 504 Plan. Others need more intensive services and support. These patients are candidates for an Individual Educational Plan (IEP).

If your child had either an IEP or a 504 Plan before treatment, your child’s educational team should meet to see if changes are needed. They can also help you determine if your child needs a health care plan.

We know it may be hard to move from the hospital setting to the classroom setting. You can always contact your school advocacy coordinator with questions or concerns.

Social and emotional support

You and your child may have mixed emotions when they finish treatment or go back to school. Your child might:

  • Miss those who took care of them at St. Jude
  • Feel the effects of their medical condition
  • Struggle with body-image issues
  • Feel a loss of control
  • Feel or become socially isolated

Our patients are more likely to be bullied than healthy children. Unfortunately, this is true even if they are not in the classroom. You and your child can work together to assign a “point person” at school who can help. This person could be a teacher or a guidance counselor. They can check in regularly with your child to answer questions and address concerns.

Medical and physical considerations

Your child may not be able attend school all day, every day. They may:

  • Be too tired
  • Feel too weak
  • Have a weak immune system
  • Have physical challenges that affect their mobility

Talk with your child about what they need before they return to the classroom. Revisit this question often.

Your child will have regular medical follow-up appointments even after treatment ends. Keep your child’s school informed about their absences. You can ask your child’s teacher to assign them their homework before they are absent.

You can ask school staff to let you know about any sicknesses or illness outbreaks at school. Use that information to decide whether or not your child should be in class.

Learn more

Educating the Child with Cancer

This book is focused on educational issues for children treated for cancer. It was written by top experts. It includes stories from caregivers. 

Together by St. Jude

The Together by St. Jude is an online resource that provides trusted information about childhood and adolescent cancer.

Bleeding disorders

Bleeding disorders from National Hemophilia Foundation works to get access to health care for people with bleeding disorders. 

With information for all stages of life, Steps for Living offers facts about living with or parenting a child with a bleeding disorder.

Sickle cell disease

The Sickle Cell Disease Association advocates for people affected by sickle cell disease worldwide.

The Sickle Cell Foundation of Tennessee works to improve treatment, care, and outcomes for those with sickle cell disease in Tennessee.

With members in public health, research, provider organizations, and more, the Sickle Cell Disease Coalition’s goal is to amplify the voice of the sickle cell disease community.  

Aplastic anemia

The Aplastic Anemia and MDS Foundation provides answers, support, and hope to patients and families around the world.