Q. Can you advise on the best method of obtaining educational support for my daughter who has fallen behind at school and needs more specialist support to catch up with her peers? She is seven, and was originally diagnosed with cancer at age four.

A.

It’s common for children who have been diagnosed with cancer at a young age to need specialized educational support during and/or after their treatment. This can be due to many factors including frequent absences from school due to treatment or hospitalizations or the lingering effects that treatment may have on learning.

First, I recommend speaking with your daughter’s teachers to express your concerns and to find out whether her teacher has concerns about her academic progress as well. Her teacher may recommend that your daughter undergoes an evaluation however either way, you may request that your child is evaluated based on your own concerns. Usually a request for an evaluation must be submitted in writing to either your daughter’s school or school district.

Your daughter will then be evaluated by a several professionals. A typical comprehensive evaluation includes testing of academics, attention, memory, language, psychosocial and other areas of development. As part of the evaluation, the school district may request supplemental information from your daughter’s doctor or oncologist. After the testing, members of the school or school district will meet with you to discuss the results. Depending on the state you live in, there are specific qualifications for eligibility for educational support services. If your daughter qualifies for services, an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) will be developed and services will then be initiated. Parents are included in the IEP development meeting. For more information about how this process works in your state, please visit your local school district’s website. You can also call your state’s department of education for additional information. If your daughter does not qualify for services after being evaluated and you disagree with the findings, you have the option of participating in a hearing process. Your school district’s office or your state’s department of education can provide more information on this process as well.

In addition to speaking with your daughter’s teachers, it is a good idea to speak with your daughter’s pediatrician regarding your concerns. If your daughter does not qualify for in-school services, your pediatrician may be able to provide information and referrals regarding arranging outside services that may be covered by insurance. He or she can also provide referrals to a child psychologist or neuropsychologist, if that’s needed.

CureSearch for Children’s Cancer has additional information on this topic in their Guidance for Parents section on their website. If you need additional support or information, feel free to reach out to CancerCare’s Hopeline at 800-813-HOPE (4673) to speak with an oncology social worker.

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