Returning to school after a blood and marrow transplant

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Learn how to help your child transition back to school, after a blood and marrow transplant.

Key points

  • Make your child's transition back to school easier by communicating with their teachers, guidance counsellor, or principal, and by advocating for your child.
  • The school staff may be able to help ease any anxieties your child has about returning to school.

When your child returns home after their blood and marrow transplant (BMT), they may not feel strong enough to start school full-time. This is especially true for children with immune deficiencies, since their immune systems may take longer to recover.

Most children will be able to return to school three to six months after returning home from the BMT. The treatment team will let you know when your child can return to school.

Keep teachers informed about your child’s condition to help them understand and support your child’s circumstances. This can help them approach your child’s situation with the same positive outlook that you have for your child. It will also ease your child’s transition back to school.

Once your child is ready, they might begin by going to school for half a day. During this time, you may want to consider home instruction, where the school sends someone to your home to help your child keep up with their school work.

Easing the transition back to school

Meet with teachers before your child returns to school. They can also help you prepare the teacher and the other students. Your child’s Interlink nurse or hospital social worker may be able to help ease the transition to school. Working with a child that had a BMT may be a new experience for the teacher. It may be difficult for the teacher to work with a child who has had a prolonged absence from school. Communicate with your child’s teacher to address the special needs of your child.

Advocate for your child

You may need to be assertive when your child is transitioning back into school. If you feel like your child is not getting what they need, get involved with the school. Sometimes schools go overboard on restrictions because they do not understand the implications of your child’s illness. On the other hand, schools can be too lenient and have no expectations when it comes to academic performance. You may have to go to school to meet with teachers, administrators, and other personnel to make sure that your child is performing at their optimal level. You also want to make sure that your child is getting the special help and accommodations that they need.

How your child may feel about returning to school

Your child may feel anxious about returning to school, especially because of changes in their physical appearance.

Elementary school children are more likely to be accepting of your child’s change in physical appearance. They may see it as something special and unique, and not a negative trait.

However, peer pressure to conform and “fit in” becomes increasingly important as children progress through high school. As a high-school student, your child interacts with more teachers. They may be more concerned about time they lost from school, especially if they are preparing for university or college admission. It might mean that your child will have to re-adjust their plans for the future.

Accepting and understanding this is part of getting used to their new set of circumstances.

You can help by communicating with your child’s teacher, guidance counsellor, or principal. Make sure they help the class understand how to behave and act around your child. The nurse or hospital social worker may be able to help ease the transition to school. Within Ontario, community cancer nurses (Interlink nurses) can help instruct teachers and the classroom about your child’s transplant.

Last updated: March 25th 2010