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Family Matters - Spring 2009

How to Advocate for Your Child in School

When pediatric patients have the opportunity to attend their home school during treatment, it serves as a positive environment that allows patients to interact with their friends and maintain a sense of normalcy in their lives. However, for parents, school re-entry can be a frightening step.

Carla Hart, education director at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, has provided some guidelines that parents can give to their child’s school nurse and teacher. In addition, she has given parents some tips to advocate for their child as he/she attends school during treatment.

School Guidelines for Pediatric Cancer Patients:

  1. If the patient is running a fever of 101 or higher, please notify his/her parents and have the child picked up from school as soon as possible.
  2. If the child is resting in the nursing area, please keep him/her isolated from any other ill students.
  3. Notify parents immediately if your student is exposed to chicken pox or measles. An exposure is considered an hour or more in an enclosed space with someone who currently has active lesions or up to two days before breaking out. The patient’s parents will then contact the hospital to receive instructions for treatment.
  4. If the child’s eyesight is adequate, please place him/her at a desk in the rear of the room to keep coughing/sneezing exposures to a minimum.
  5. Please do not permit the children to share cups or utensils.
  6. For PE activities, allow the student to self-limit. We will notify you if there are any restrictions.
  7. Encourage good hand washing!
  8. If your student has had hair loss due to therapy, please allow him/her to wear a head covering if desired.
  9. Often children are given steroids as part of their therapy. If so, they may have weight gain, especially in the cheeks and abdomen. They may need to bring extra snacks to school while on steroids.
  10. These children want to be treated like normal children. Remember, cancer is not contagious.
  11. Patients can have no immunizations until they are off therapy for at least one year.
  12. We recommend that children wear sunscreen or a hat and long sleeves while outdoors.

Tips for Parents:

  1. If you have a question about something that concerns you with your child, ask it! Contact the person at the school with whom you have the best relationship and ask them to help you with your concern.
  2. Come prepared to all meetings at the school with a list of questions you'd like to discuss (this way you won't forget to ask things in case the conversation gets off topic).
  3. Come to meetings with solutions to your concerns as well. This way you will be an active participant in helping create the most positive school environment possible for your child.

If you need any assistance in working with your child’s school, please contact Carla Hart at the Children’s Cancer Hospital, 713-745-5059 or chart@mdanderson.org.

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