Returning to School

We encourage children to return to school once it is medically safe, and they’ve been cleared by their doctor. Doctors advocate for children to remain out of school until their blood counts are high enough, but school is a normal part of life for most children and adolescents and promoting normalcy is important throughout treatment.

A child life specialist can set up home-bound tutoring through the child’s school district in an effort to keep them on track. For inpatient stays, OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois provides a school program. District 150-certified teachers (Peoria School District), who work at OSF Children’s Hospital, communicate with your school district to align their programming with what is presently being taught in your child’s classroom. You are welcome to bring homework, as well.  You may contact the teachers at OSF Children’s Hospital for tutoring services by calling (309) 624-0235.  

When the doctor clears your child for school, a special program for school re-entry will be provided by your child life specialist. The program includes a 20-minute video, which will be shown to your child’s class and discussed with the students. The specialist will bring a teaching doll to explain how your child receives treatment and the side effects they may be experiencing. The presentation includes discussion about St. Jude, cancer, germs and ways to help. It is well documented that educating a child’s peers upon their return to the classroom can eliminate anxiety, fear, misconceptions and multiple questions the staff and peers may have. A school consent will be required prior to setting up a school visit.

Your child has the option to be there for the visit. The school presentation can be scheduled prior to their return to school, or your child can be an active participant in the presentation by answering questions and sharing their story. 

In addition, the child life specialist will provide a letter to the teacher that may be sent home with your child’s classmates, discussing your child’s medical situation. Without using your child’s name, the letter will explain who spoke in the classroom and what parents can do to protect the returning child, such as keeping a child with a temperature home and informing the school of any common viral infections that may be dangerous.

The child life specialist can also assist the educators in developing a 504 plan or an IEP by advocating the medical needs of your child. This may include carrying a water bottle to decrease germs, wearing a hat for comfort after hair loss, not engaging in hard-ball sports because of a central line, having the ability to eat a snack during steroid weeks, etc. On most occasions, these are things that often get overlooked. Please talk to your child life specialist, Allison, for more information on school visits, 504 plans and IEPs.