When students are away from home for an extended time, they need assistance keeping up with their classwork. The St. Jude School Program by Chili’s staff is available to help students with their classwork while receiving treatment. We will work with you to make this a smooth transition. We also offer services to help your student return back to school after treatment at St. Jude.
New Patient Assessment
When new patients are admitted to St. Jude, we meet with them to determine if they need assistance with school services. If a need is identified, they are assigned a teacher who will coordinate with the home school while the patient is at the hospital. Our patients usually have home-bound school services in their home community or hospital-bound school services through St. Jude.
If homebound services are needed either in the Memphis area or in the home community outside of Memphis, we can assist parents in arranging these services. The assigned teacher will be in contact with the community school personnel to determine necessary documentation for home-bound services and will assist the parents in providing the needed documentation.
For patients who live outside of Memphis and have to live in St. Jude Housing during treatment, hospital-bound educational services are provided. Patients who live in and around the Memphis area can be seen by a St. Jude teacher if they do not have access to home-bound services.
The patient should stay enrolled in their home community school and be placed on home-bound status. St. Jude teachers will then take the place of the community teacher until the patient can return home. There is no charge for this service.
Using materials from the patient’s home school is ideal and preferred. This helps the patient feel connected to friends at home and allows for an easier transition when treatment is complete. You can send assignments to us by fax, mail or email if necessary. We will also assist our patients in accessing any online curriculum your school uses and will assist them with work assigned throught online platforms
We provide at least three hours of instruction each week, which can be supplemented with group enrichment and tutoring services.
When a patient is ready to return home, our school staff will send a grade report to the home school as well as information about what work has been completed and any needs for special services for accommodations.
English as a Second Language services
Patients whose native language is not English can attend English as a Second Language classes. Once an intermediate to advanced level of English proficiency is attained, patients may transition to complete their academic content courses in English.
Bilingual instruction is available to Spanish-speaking patients who desire to complete their academics 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. We also assist our students in getting any appropriate accommodations needed to take the test.
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.