A descriptive study of the perceptions of children with cancer and their parents about the child's re-entry to school
A review of the literature shows that since the inception of multi-modal therapy within the last decade, children with the diagnosis of cancer are living longer and some are experiencing cures. Generally, the professional and parental goal is that of encouraging the child to pursue normal life experiences during the period of treatment. School participation, with re-entry as soon as possible after diagnosis, is essential to achieving a normal life style for the 7 through 11 year old child. The purpose of this study was to describe those interventions which facilitated or interfered with the re-entry to school of children who had cancer. The study sample consisted of 18 children, and a parent each (18), who had experienced the school re-entry process. The interview (child) and questionnaire (parent) were conducted during a routine visit to the oncology clinic at a midwestern children's hospital. The data collected were analyzed using means, medians, frequency distributions, and percentages. Results of the data analysis indicated: 1. The average child in this study was absent more than 20% of this school year. 2. Teachers, parents, doctors and nurses at the clinic, and school nurses (if available) were helpful: family physicians were generally considered to be not involved in the child's re-entry to school. 3. Those interventions which were described as helpful, met either the child's physical, academic or psychosocial needs during re-entry. 4. The parents perceived that the children played well with others but felt that the child's play was often more quiet and more solitary than before diagnosis. 5. The parents were not concerned that the teacher would treat their child differently than classmates. The children were about equally divided as to whether they felt it was difficult to keep up with school work. Seventy-eight percent of the children had homework if they were absent from school. 6. The parents and children were both agreeable to sharing information about the child's condition with professionals and others. This sample preferred that the parents make the first contact with school personnel about the child's return. Awareness of parent/child perceptions about school re-entry should assist the nurse and others in planning interventions for the child with cancer.