Before the age of 19, one in every 330 children in the United States will develop some form of cancer. Like their adult counterparts, more children today are surviving cancer and returning back to the activities in their life before their medical diagnosis. The back to school experience has challenges for most students, but for those going back during or following cancer treatment there are many unique needs. Parents can play a critical role in advocating for their children from a medical, academic and even legal perspective to ensure that their child makes a successful transition.
Why is this support needed? Children and young adults with cancer may find their classmates don’t know much about the condition and may have perceptions that can hurt the cancer survivor. These include thinking the child did something “bad” to get cancer or thinking cancer is contagious, neither of which is true. Straight-forward, reassuring information can help turn anxious classmates into supportive friends. Teachers, school nurses, guidance counselors and others can all play a role in supporting the child by working with parents and community volunteers from the medical profession and advocacy groups.
About one-third of childhood cancers are leukemias."Welcome Back: Working Together to Support the Cancer Survivor at School," is an educational program developed by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Originally developed to support grade school students, LLS has now expanded the program to address the needs of teens in high school and young adults entering college, whose experiences are very different from younger students.
Presented by local medical experts and educators, the programs helps teach academic, administrative, medical and other professionals ways they can help ease and support a child’s return to school after cancer treatment. The short and long-term effects of cancer treatment are covered, as well as strategies to overcome educational obstacles and the laws that protect the rights of children who are cancer survivors.