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The Critical Role of School in a Child's Life

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Updated on Feb 25, 2011

When a child is first diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, it’s easy to forget how important school is in his or her life. But school will play an important role in helping a child maintain a normal routine and stay connected to friends during and after treatment.

School provides structure and keeps a child focused on the future. School is where children learn and develop communication and social skills. Put simply, going to school gives children a sense of purpose.

Yet, during treatment for many types of cancer, school attendance may be interrupted. Some children may spend days, weeks, even months away from school and friends. An extended absence from school may make it difficult to stay up to date on schoolwork, and to stay in contact with friends.

To manage school issues, plan carefully and talk regularly with your child, his or her teacher(s), school administrators and care providers. Because school is such an important activity for young people with cancer, your child’s treatment center may have educators or special staff to help you and your child maintain their ongoing school program. Discuss school concerns with your child’s physician, oncology nurses, or social worker to get further assistance.

Federal law requires that young people who are unable to attend a regular school because of illness should be able to continue their educational programs. Each state also has educational laws that make additional educational services available.

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