Sadly, adults are not the only ones touched by cancer. Kids get cancer, too. While only 1% of all cancer in the United States is found in kids under the age of 15, in 2016 that means 10,380 children. Childhood cancer has been on the rise for the past few decades. However there is some good news out there. Because of major treatment advances in recent decades, more than 80% of children with cancer now survive 5 years or more.
Thankfully, now we need to talk about how children transition from treatment back to school. There is a lot of discussion about adults returning to work after taking time off to deal with a cancer diagnosis. We talk about the normalcy, the sense of the purpose, and the chance to socialize that work may bring. Well, for these kids, returning to school can mean exactly the same thing. And it also comes with its own degree of challenges. Thanks to Stony Brook Children’s School Intervention and Re-Entry Program, there is now a model of how to help children transition from treatment to school.
The School Intervention and Re-Entry Team is made up of physicians, nurses, child life specialists, and educational liaisons who work with school personnel including teachers, school nurses, counselors, social workers, psychologists and other staff members in a joint effort to ease the child’s return to the classroom. This is a service that is free to all Stony Brook Children’s patients. Some of the services they provide include:
- Presentations to the school faculty regarding a patient’s illness and treatment
- Classroom presentations to the patient’s peers
- Acting as a liaison between the hospital and the school
- Arranging for home instruction
- Advocating for appropriate educational service
- Attending 504 and CSE/IEP meetings
- Providing medical documentation to schools
- Facilitating neuropsychological evaluations and/or other educational testing services
- Holding ongoing phone consultation regarding school issues, placement, curriculum, accommodations, and other educational services
The program’s services don’t stop at high school either. This year, they were able to offer a workshop specifically for students with cancer and blood disorders who are transitioning to college. The workshop was designed to educate these students as well as their siblings, parents and school personnel about their unique needs, and to empower this special population of students to realize their academic goals. There was also an expo with representatives from many regional colleges available to speak individually with students and families about their schools, programs, and services.
We recognize that all children are not being treated at Stony Brook Children’s. But if you are a parent of a child with cancer, you are used to being an advocate for your child. Let Stony Brooks Children’s School Intervention and Re-Entry Program be a model you advocate for at your child’s hospital. After all, we all want our children to be healthy and successful in everything they do.