Going back to school


When your child is treated at St. Jude, he might be away from school for a long time. After coming home, your child might still miss school and have trouble keeping up with work. If your child had rehabilitation services at St. Jude, he might also need this kind of help at school. Your child might qualify for help through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan.

Read below for basic information on these plans. But each school district handles IEPs and 504 plans a little differently. St. Jude does not guarantee your child will get the help described here.

What is an Individualized Education Program (IEP)?

An IEP is a school program for your child and a written document. The document has specific information about:

  • How your child is doing in school now,
  • What services, accommodations, and modifications the school will provide to help your child succeed in school, and,
  • Education goals for your child.

The information below tells you what “accommodations” and “modifications” are.

To qualify for an IEP, your child must be age 3 to 21, have a disability, and meet certain educational requirements. The disability must be in a specific category, such as vision or hearing problems, bone or joint problems that make it difficult to walk or do other normal activities, speech or language problems, “other,” and more.

Also, your child must need special education services to succeed in school. An IEP is only for a child who needs special education. Services with an IEP could include:

  • Occupational and physical therapy,
  • Speech therapy, and
  • Help with mental, emotional, and social concerns.

To learn more about IEPs, you can read “Do You Know . . . Individualized Education Program (IEP).”

What is a 504 plan?

A 504 plan makes sure your child gets the support he needs to succeed in school. But a 504 plan is not special education. Your child stays in a general classroom. He gets accommodations, modifications, and some services.

While 504 plans help children with more disabilities than IEPs, the disability must still affect your child’s school performance to get a 504 plan.

To learn more about 504 plans, you can read “Do You Know . . . 504 plan.”

What are some examples of accommodations and modifications that my child might receive under an IEP or 504 Plan?


Accommodations are things that help your child learn the same material and meet the same expectations as their classmates who are the same age. Below are examples of accommodations.

  • Shorter assignments or tests
  • Fewer assignments
  • Special quiet space to work
  • Seat at the front of the classroom
  • Extra time to complete work or walk between classes
  • Worksheets with larger font size
  • Written copy of instructions
  • Devices to help your child move or communicate
  • Buddy system with classmates the same age
  • Flexible school days (shorter days or weeks; services if your child cannot leave home)
  • Increased accessibility (such as a wheelchair ramp)


Modifications are changes in the material your child is expected to learn and complete. Below are examples of modifications.

  • Different test questions
  • Simpler essay requirements
  • Alternative assignments or projects
  • Simpler material (for example, learning everyday math skills instead of algebra)
  • Permission to use a calculator on a math test when other students are not allowed to do so
  • Permission to have someone read certain English or language arts test questions out loud to the student
  • Permission to read books for assignments that teach similar ideas but at a lower reading level.

What should I do if my child might need an IEP or 504 plan?

You can ask to meet with the team at your child’s school to talk about your child’s needs. You can also ask for an “evaluation.” This is when the education team meets with your child and does tests to learn what kind of help is needed.

To ask to meet with the team, talk to your child’s teacher or a school counselor or administrator.

Should I meet with the school before leaving St. Jude?

Maybe. It can help to meet your child’s school team before your child goes back to school. The St. Jude School Program has staff members who can help with this process. If the school team knows about your child’s needs ahead of time, they can help make going back to school as easy and smooth as possible.

Once your child returns to school, the school team can evaluate your child. They can decide if he qualifies for an IEP or 504 plan. If so, they can decide on specific services, accommodations, or modifications to help your child.

Who is on my child’s school team?

The school team includes:

  • Parents or guardians,
  • Your child’s teacher,
  • A representative from the school district, and
  • People who provide services – For example, the team might include a special education teacher.

It might also include a translator, a person who coordinates the process of going back to school, and your child, if your child is old enough.

How should I get ready for the first meeting at my child’s school?

  • If your child has rehabilitation appointments at St. Jude, you can tell the staff you are interested in help for your child in school. They can recommend school team evaluations in your child’s medical records.
  • You can ask for copies of your child’s medical records, including the notes from your child’s doctors and other team members. Contact the St. Jude Health Information Management Department at 901-595-3680. Bring them when you meet with the school team.
  • Write down your questions, concerns, and goals before the meeting. It can be hard to remember your thoughts during the meeting.

You might want to bring information on your child’s illness or educational needs to share with team members. The more they know, the more they can help support you and your child.

Important St. Jude contact information

Health Information Management Services (HIMS) – 901-595-3680


The HIMS office, which handles medical records, is on the plaza level of the Patient Care Center. Staff members are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, except holidays.

St. Jude School Program Director: 901-595-3346

Rehabilitation Services: 901-595-3621

Where can I learn more about this topic?

Here are some websites with information on helping your child go back to school.

Learning and Living with Cancer: Advocating for Your Child’s Educational Needs

Children Diagnosed with Cancer: Returning to School

Preparing the Classroom for Your Child’s Return to School

Returning to School after Treatment

General IEP and 504 plan information

You can also read “Do You Know … Functional behavior assessment”and “Do You Know . . . Response to intervention” for more information.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).