“I think it’s time to go back to school.” After weeks or even months of treatment and recovery, these words are cause for celebration among children and parents. For many, returning to school is an important milestone on the road to normalcy.
As wonderful as it is, the transition to school does require special attention and care. Your school-age son or daughter may have significantly different needs today and you may have lots of concerns and questions. Additionally, for some, a return to school is not a singular event as much as it is a fluid shifting of time spent at home, at school and in care.
Whatever your situation is, we can help you – and your neighborhood school, principal or teacher – prepare for a successful transition back to school.
- Start Early
- Special Education Services
- Neuropsychological Testing
- Monitor and Advocate
The ABTA's "Educating Children and Teenagers" resource sheet is available for free download at the bottom of the page. Our CareLine is available at 800-886-ABTA (2282) if you have more questions.
Returning to school is an exciting time, but it can be overwhelming for parents and children. Returning students have weathered difficult treatments that may have altered learning capabilities, behavior, strength, energy levels, coordination, speech, hearing or eyesight. It may be the first time your school has worked with a family in your specific situation. Communicating with the school early and often during treatment will help smooth the way for a good transition.
While you child is still recovering in the hospital, contact their school regarding your child’s diagnosis and treatment. Keep teachers updated. It is critical to talk to your child about what he or she may (or may not) be comfortable revealing about this personal situation. Once informed, teachers and classmates can be a tremendous source of much-needed support during hospitalizations and home stays through cards, letters, phone calls, texts, social media and personal visits.
Try to maintain education goals during treatment. Work with the school to complete assignments at home during recovery. Read to your child and keep them engaged with learning as much as possible during the time away from school.
Tap Into Special Education Services
As a return to school nears, meet with the principal and primary teacher and/or special education coordinator to discuss necessary accommodations. Bring brain tumor information from the ABTA with you to share. This is your opportunity to discuss your child’s diagnosis, treatment and the resulting physical, neuropsychological, emotional, social and/or behavioral changes.
If your child has physical or learning disabilities following a brain tumor diagnosis and/or related treatment, your child may qualify for benefits or accommodations under one of two federal mandates; The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Section 504.
To access services under these mandates, request a school evaluation for your child. This will include a series of educational tests to determine how your child learns best and what type of accommodations will help your child to optimally learn. These services are usually coordinated by your school district’s Special Education Department.
There is ongoing research which shows that children treated for brain tumors may experience neuropsychological effects following treatment. Neuropsychological testing is done to help define the impact and identify learning disabilities. It can be used to assess processing speed, attention, visual motor integration, planning and organizing skills, visual and verbal memory, reading comprehension and math calculation and applied abilities.
Ideally, baseline testing is done before treatment starts and is done again prior to returning to school. Neuropsychological testing will help assess needs and identify the necessary accommodations for a student to succeed in a classroom environment.
The neuropsychological testing may be used to complement school administered evaluations.
Monitor and Advocate
When your child first returns to school, you may wish to plan regular meetings with your child’s teacher or counselor to better understand how things are progressing in the classroom. Ask about your child’s behavior, signs of fatigue, excessive frustration or depression. Check in frequently with your child. Ask questions. Monitor performance. Be aware of changes and be prepared to request modified or new accommodations at school as the circumstances require it.
You must advocate for your child’s education in the same way that you advocated for medical care. Work closely with teachers and the school. Involve your medical team if necessary. Turn to the ABTA for help and additional resources.