School is the center of daily life for school-age children and teenagers. While your child is in the hospital for a bone marrow or cord blood transplant (also called a BMT), you can make school part of the routine. Staying engaged in school can give your child a sense of purpose, self-esteem and connection with his or her peers.
School in the hospital
Some hospitals provide a school environment and some don't. Schooling at the hospital is very flexible. Encourage your child to meet with the teacher when he or she feels up to it. It is a good opportunity for your child to develop friendships and continue being a student. When your child is at high risk for infection and is in isolation in his or her room, attending school is not an option. However, you could work with your child on school assignments on days he or she feels well enough. You may want to select games and TV programs that are both fun and educational.
Tutoring in the hospital
If your transplant center does not provide a school, it may offer a tutor. A tutor can work one-on-one with your child in his or her room on assignments from your child's school. Meet with your child's teacher to discuss ways to get assignments and keep up with classwork. For example, your child may be able to get assignments and send them back to the teacher by e-mail.
You and your child's primary focus is your child's recovery. If school doesn't fit into the plans at this time, some children wait until they are out of the hospital to return to their education.
Staying in touch with classmates
Along with classwork, think about ways to keep your child connected with classmates. Staying in touch will help your child keep up socially and make it easier when he or she returns to school. If your transplant center is close by, friends may be able to visit, depending on the hospital's policies. Your child can also stay in touch with classmates through e-mail, phone calls or letters. The teacher could make it a class project to send cards, pictures and letters or make videotapes or recorded messages from the classroom.
Early months at home
Most children do schoolwork at home until they are well enough to attend school. Most children can return to school between 6 and 12 months after transplant. Some need more time before they can return.
K. Scott Baker, M.D., Director, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation and Survivorship Programs, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash.
Nancy J. Bunin, M.D., Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
Eva C. Guinan, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
Mary Jo Kupst, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics, Medical College of Wisconsin; Director, Program in Pediatric Psychology, Milwaukee, Wis.