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Missing School: what to do

Reasons why a young person with cancer will miss school.

Depending on the treatment protocol, they may need to be absent for as much as one or two days per week.

Due to the effects the treatment may have on the immune system, children on treatment are more susceptible to developing fevers and infections. Sometimes they may need to be admitted to hospital for a period of time to receive the antibiotics to help them fight the infections.

Some parents fear the risk of infection and become over protective or over indulgent as a result.

Social isolation and teasing have been reported to produce separation anxiety and school phobia in some children.

Be reassuring

Children and parents need to be reassured that school is a safe and supportive place to be.
By being understanding and making parents aware that you understand their concerns regarding the above issues, you will be providing them with confidence and reinforcement of their efforts to come to grips with the diagnosis and the disease.

Provide extra help

They need to know, as well, what the school is able to provide in the area of tutoring, extra help, etc to enable the student to catch up on work missed.

Academic performance and planning

Parents and the student may worry about what happens if a child has missed a lot of school and is well behind the class at the end of the academic year.

Obviously, it is very hard to fail a student who has cancer. Feelings like “The poor child and family have been through so much already” are likely to surface for school teachers. Keep in mind that the majority of young people do survive cancer for many years.

When they become well and are functioning normally they may find themselves really disadvantaged if their progress has not been measured appropriately.

Although there is no sure, fast rule regarding such cases, it is important that school staff consult with parents and perhaps the health care team when faced with difficult decisions regarding academic performance and planning.

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