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 and students with visual needs.
- 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 patient consult to 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 new patient consult will also include information about exploratory opportunities that are offered to each student to enhance their educational experience while they participate in the school program at St. Jude.
Students may need home-bound services either in the Memphis area or in their home community outside Memphis. We can help caregivers 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.
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 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 with one of our ESL teachers. 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 schoolwork in their native language.
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 school students have access to preparatory and test-taking services while they are at St. Jude if they are unable to access these supports through their community school .
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. 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.
School Advocacy Coordinators are available to meet with families to provide education about the potential effects of diagnosis and treatment on school and learning, assess for transition related school needs, and help families understand their rights as it pertains to educational law. The school advocacy coordinator serves as a contact to school personnel in order to advocate for the educational needs of patients who are attending their community school. The school advocacy coordinator:
- Ensures educators understand the effects of diagnosis and treatment on school and learning and are aware of services and strategies that will help patients to be successful in learning
- Help patients and families understand school needs of students with catastrophic illnesses
- 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, virtually, or through conference calls
We view consultation as an interactive, collaborative, problem-solving process which empowers caregivers to best meet the educational needs of the student. Our goal in consultation is to improve caregivers understanding of the student's unique needs in order to support them in advocating for 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 encouraged to go to school as soon as medically appropriate.
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 school team should meet to make revisions if necessary. The studeny may also need a health care plan. Closely tracking student progress is important as our patients may experience “late effects” and need support later 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 at the differences in timing. Families should always reach out to their School Advocacy Coordinator with any questions or concerns.
Social Emotional Support
Patients and families often have mixed emotions when they finish treatment or go back to school. Patients may experience separation anxiety (from their caregivers or St. Jude), effects of the medical condition, changes in body image, loss of control, and social isolation. Caregivers 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 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 go to school or finish treatment, they may be leaving friends behind at St. Jude. Friends from home may have moved on during treatment, and patients may withdraw from social relationships. Unfortunately, patients are at higher risk for being bullied compared to healthy peers. This may be the case even if they are not in the classroom. Assigning a “point person” who will check in with the student to discuss any adjustment issues or concerns at a regular interval may be helpful.
Medical & Physical Considerations
Attending school all day, five days a week may not be possible for some students. 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. They will still have regular medical follow-up appointments. Schools should excuse all medically related absences, and plan for the student to receive their work prior to their absence.
Resources for Families and Schools
Pediatric Cancer in the Schools: A Guide for Schools & Caregivers
St. Jude staff 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 with 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.
Educating the Child with Cancer
Written by top researchers in the field, and balanced with caregivers' 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.