The St. Jude Imagine Academy by Chili’s is available to assist your child with keeping up with their classwork while away from home,to assist in your child’s reintegration into their local community school, and to assist you in making sure your child is receiving appropriate services in their community school.
We provide services through three main programs:
- Hospital-bound / Homebound Educational Services including services for English as a Second Language students.
- School Reintegration Services
- Advocacy Services
After your child is referred to School Program, a staff member will meet with you and your child during a ppatient consultto collect basic information about your child’school, your child’s grade level and information about their need for school services or other school intervention.
The School Program strives to provide each student with a continued sense of normalcy throughout treatment. One way we do this is by allowing students to stay enrolled in their home community schools.
Some children need home-bound services either in the Memphis area or in their home community outside Memphis. We can help parents arrange for these services. To authorize home-bound services, your child’s doctor will typically need to sign a document explaining the child’s illness. This will either be a letter from the doctor or a form provided by your child’s school system. The School Program staff can assist in getting the form signed or obtaining the doctor’s letter.
Hospital bound educational services are provided mainly to patients who live outside the Memphis area and who are 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.
The student’s school can keep your child enrolled and place your child on home-bound status. Our teachers will then take the place of your child’s community teacher until you return home. Upon returning home, your child will have an easier transition back into the classroom or will be assigned a home-bound teacher from your community.
We encourage the use of books and assignments from each patient’s community school. The St. Jude teacher assigned to work with your child will contact the community school to request books and assignments. Assignments can be sent to St. Jude by fax, mail or email. We will provide curriculum materials if it is not possible to get assignments from your child’s community school.
Each child enrolled in the School Program receives at least three hours of instruction each week. Once enrolled in hospital-bound services, your child will attend class regularly and will have homework to complete.
The classrooms are open every day. Please check with your child’s teachers to find out what hours they are available for instruction.
English as a Second Language services
Patients whose native language is not English can attend English as a Second Language classes. Once a student reaches intermediate to advanced level of English proficiency, he or she may transition to complete their academic courses in English.
Bilingual instruction is available to Spanish-speaking and French-speaking patients who want to complete their school work in their native language. There are also some countries which provide online educational resources in their native languages.
ACT and SAT exams
An important milestone in many high school students’ educational careers is taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exams. We make sure high schools students have access to preparatory and test-taking services while they are at St. Jude.
Preparation for ACT or SAT exams has two parts: The application process and study/preparation for the actual exam.
Due to fatigue and treatment schedules, our patients usually need accommodations such as extra time or taking the test over multiple days. In order for that to happen, certain documentation must be included in the application. St. Jude School Program staff can help you organize these materials and fill out the application so your child receives the accommodations.
We want to make sure our patients have the opportunity to learn about the exams and to understand how to successfully take them. We work with a local organization called Get to College to provide regular ACT/SAT workshops at St. Jude for our patients. This allows patients to prepare and study for the exams and gain important test-taking tips to improve their scores. For more test prep material, you may purchase a program called eknowledge at a discounted rate.
School Advocacy Coordinators and School Advocacy
School Advocacy Coordinators are available to meet with families to provide education about immediate cognitive impact, cognitive late effects, assess for transition related school needs, and help families understand their rights as it pertains to special education law. The school advocacy coordinator serves as a contact to school personnel in order to advocate for the educational needs of patients who are transitioning off treatment or long-term survivors who need extra support. The school advocacy coordinator:
- Ensures educators understand the effects of treatment on learning and are aware of services and strategies that will help patients to be successful in learning
- Help patients and families understand academic manifestations of hematological and oncological diseases
- Partner with school districts to provide disease education and awareness to staff and students
- Collaborate with St. Jude personnel including clinical staff and staff from Psychology, Rehabilitation Services and Social Work to understand each patient's needs and make recommendations for the classroom setting
- Attends Individual Education Plan (IEP) and 504 Service Plan meetings for patients in person or through conference calls
We view consultation as an interactive, collaborative, problem-solving process which empowers parents and school personnel to best meet the educational needs of the student. Our goal in consultation is to improve parents and school professionals' understanding of the student's unique needs in order to provide services that ensure academic success.
The process involves several steps:
- Initial assessment of the patient's school situation
- Extensive data collection process – including obtaining information via educational and medical records in order to build a "full picture" of the patient's needs
- Review of school documentation including IEPs, 504 Plans, evaluations, and progress reports
- Work with multi-disciplinary teams at St. Jude
- Development of a plan to address academic concerns. This may include specialized testing, providing a letter to the school that outlines the student's diagnosis, treatment, impact of treatment on learning and school recommendations, or referral to other agencies or St. Jude personnel.
School Life for the St. Jude patient
School is a normal part of childhood. School gives patients a chance to keep a sense of identity and normalcy. As such, students are typically encouraged to return to school as soon as medically appropriate.
The educational impact of cancer and hematological illnesses does not stop at the completion of therapy or remission of disease. As treatment and cure rates continue to improve, more and more childhood cancer survivors live with long-term effects of disease and treatment, such as impairments to learning and thinking. Patients living with hematological illness often learn to manage their chronic disease but never reach a full elimination of their illness. St. Jude School Program school advocacy coordinators can consult with the patient’s school team to help. The goal in consultation is to improve parents’ and school professionals’ understanding of the student’s unique needs in order to provide services that ensure academic success. After a plan has been implemented, the school advocacy coordinator will continue to remain available for any additional educational needs or concerns.
Academic Support & Educational Plans
The educational impact of catastrophic and chronic illness is immediate and can be long-lasting. St. Jude patients are generally well-served with classroom accommodations under a 504 Plan. Some patients may require more intensive services and supports under an Individual Educational Plan (IEP), such as related rehabilitation services. Because of diagnosis and the impact of treatment, our patients can qualify for an IEP under “Other Health Impairment.” If the student was served under an IEP or 504 Plan prior to treatment, the team should meet to make revisions if necessary. The patient may also need a health care plan. Closely tracking student progress is important as our patients often experience “late effects” and need support later on in their academic careers, as they move out from their treatment and as school demands increase.
Hospitals and schools operate very differently. At St. Jude, families get used to problems being assessed and treatment being prescribed quickly. In schools, data is collected over longer periods of time in order to define and evaluate a student’s needs. Families may find it difficult to move from one setting to the other and may feel frustration in the differences in timing. It may be the family’s first experience with special education. It may also be the first time the family has been able to look past being cured and think about the impact treatment has had. Families should always reach out to their Academic Coordinator with any questions or concerns.
Social Emotional Support
Patients and families often have mixed emotions when they finish treatment. Patients may experience separation anxiety (from their parents or St. Jude), effects of the medical condition, changes in body image, loss of control, and social isolation. Parents may feel the need to protect the patient and may be overwhelmed by medical demands. School staff may experience fear due to lack of medical knowledge or a personal experience with cancer or other illnesses. Staff may be uncertain about their role in supporting the student or managing side effects in the classroom.
The patient has gone through experiences that are rare for people the same age. While they may be excited to finish treatment, they are leaving friends behind at St. Jude. Friends from home may have moved on during treatment, and patients may withdraw from social relationships. Some studies have shown that patients report approximately three times as much bullying as their healthy peers. This may be the case even if they are not in the classroom.
As the patient prepares to return to school, school advocacy coordinators talk with the family and student about what they want their classmates to know and what they want their first day back in the building to look like. Oftentimes they just want it to be an ordinary day. School Advocacy Coordinators are available to provide education and support to educators and students in order to help facilitate a smooth transition.
Medical & Physical Considerations
Attending school all day, five days a week may not be possible at first. Many students experience fatigue and weakness and cannot physically make it through a full day of school. Some patients may have a weakened immune system and are not able to be in large groups of people, or others may have physical challenges that affect their mobility. It is important for school personnel and classmates to continue to practice good hygiene (handwashing) to help prevent the spread of germs. Schools should inform families of any sicknesses or illness outbreaks at school, so they can make informed decisions regarding attendance for the student. The student’s specific needs should be addressed before returning to the classroom and re-evaluated often. After finishing treatment, they will still have medical follow-up appointments. Schools should excuse all medically related absences, and plan for the student to receive their work prior to their absence. School Advocacy Coordinators are available to provide school letters to support student attendance needs.
School Advocacy Coordinator Return to School Check List
This checklist may be useful in making sure returning to school after treatment is a smooth process.
- When notified that the student is returning to school, schedule a meeting with the family to discuss the need for accommodations or support in the classroom. If any paperwork needs to be completed for homebound or re-enrollment, provide it to the family at this time.
- Determine if the student will return to school full-time or start with half days. Often, students will need homebound services initially, and then return to school.
- Discuss whether a school re-entry presentation is appropriate. The student may have created something to share with their classmates while they were at St. Jude.
- Develop or update a 504 Plan, IEP, or health care plan to meet the student’s needs.
- Assign a “point person” who will check in with the student to discuss any adjustment issues or concerns at a regular interval.
Resources for Families and Schools
Pediatric Cancer in the Schools: A Guide for Parents & Caregivers
School Advocacy Coordinators have developed materials to send to the school to explain specific issues in educating children and adolescents with cancer. These diagnosis specific packets can be sent to school personnel to help them to understand the issues our patients face in returning to the school environment. Please contact the School Program to have a coordinator assist sending with this packet.
Staying Connected: Facilitating the Learning Experience During & After Cancer Treatment
This free 5.5 hour continuing education (CE) program from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is designed to be completed at a time that is convenient to you – following registration, you will have up to 16 weeks to complete the program in its entirety and receive CE credit or up to 3 weeks for the non-accredited track.
Cure4Kids For Teachers
This free St. Jude program aims to support K-12 educators by offering professional development opportunities that provide them with tools for teaching the basic science of cancer formation, treatment, and prevention. Look under the Resources tab for lesson plans and worksheets.
Educating the Child with Cancer
Written by top researchers in the field, and balanced with parents' personal experiences, this resource focuses on educational issues for children treated for cancer.
Powered by St. Jude, this site offers dependable information and a community of support for anyone facing childhood cancer.