When students with cancer are receiving treatment they may have frequent or prolonged periods of absence from school. The child should have home instruction during the initial phases of treatment to maintain academic progress. At a certain point in therapy the child may return to the classroom, either on a part time basis or full time. Teachers, parents, and the medical team will need to communicate consistently to determine the amount of homework that is appropriate for the student at each stage of treatment.
Every student is unique, both in academics and in their response to treatment. Our ultimate goal is to promote academic success for every student. It may be necessary for the academic workload to be modified with focus on the core content so there is also enough energy for the recovery process.
Listed below are some strategies that can be considered to promote academic progress:
- Prioritize assignments—students with limited energy may not be able to make up all missed work
- Shorten assignments—allow the student to do only as much work as is necessary to show that the concept has been mastered
- Allow video or audio recordings to be used as a tool for reviewing missed classroom material or as a substitute for long written assignments
- Suggest PASS/FAIL as opposed to letter grades when feasible or appropriate
- Provide a second set of textbooks for home
- Allow the child to use the daily experiences of the cancer journey as a topic for written assignments
- Assign a study buddy to help with missed work or to provide peer tutoring support as needed
- Allow extended time for completion of assignments as needed to account for fatigue or slowed processing—both in-class work and homework
- Provide a packet of materials to cover core concepts that the student can work on at home as energy allows
- Communicate regularly with parents and set clear expectations for the student about how much work is due and when
In all situations creativity and flexibility can go a long way in helping the student maintain motivation for academic achievement.