The School Re-entry Program at Children’s, established in 1983, helps children and teens with challenging medical problems address issues of returning to school. Through the program, child life specialist can help de-mystify a medical condition, decrease classmates’ fears, model appropriate, respectful language to describe a health problem, and help decrease the likelihood of rumors or teasing. Many helpful strategies occur through sharing information between the school and staff at Children’s. However, a school visit by a Children’s child life specialist may also occur.
Common scenarios where school visits may be helpful include the following:
- Your child/teen is newly diagnosed with a chronic illness.
- Your child/teen experiences long absences from school related to a medical condition.
- Your child/teen has experienced major changes in treatment or physical appearance.
- Your child/teen or siblings have expressed a health-related concern about the school setting.
Child life specialists provide 250 school visits per year, largely to patients in Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders program. In recent years, the school re-entry program also has served patients with diabetes, epilepsy, cystic fibrosis, cardiac conditions, neuro-muscular disorders, trauma patients, and children in hospice care. In the program, child life specialists:
- Assess medical and developmental needs related to school readiness.
- Work with the patient, family members, teachers, school nurses, counselors, and/or principals to plan a classroom visit.
- Provide a developmentally based curriculum, which may include photos of the hospital environment, a video/photo story illustrating your child/teen’s condition or experiences in the hospital, and/or a medical play session.
- Follow up with teacher surveys, letters for classmates to bring home to parents, or other activities.
For more information about the School Re-Entry Program, please contact the Child Life department at 612.813.6259.