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What About School? Educational Challenges for Children and Adolescents With Cancer

  • Barbara M. Donnan (a1), Tracey Webster (a1), Claire E. Wakefield (a2) (a3), Luciano Dalla-Pozza (a4), Frank Alvaro (a5), Jenny Lavoipierre (a1) and Glenn M. Marshall (a2)...
Abstract

Many students treated for cancer experience significant challenges in maintaining their education during and beyond cancer treatment. Late effects of cancer treatment combined with prolonged periods of missed schooling can dramatically impact upon a student's physical, cognitive and social development. This study examined the relationship between cancer type, cancer treatment, time absent from school, school services and academic areas affected by the cancer diagnosis. An online survey was completed by 80 parents, representing 80 children with cancer, and 136 siblings. Twenty-four parents/carers participated in five focus groups held across rural and regional New South Wales (NSW). Additional difficulties for children and adolescents post cancer treatment were reported by 62.3% of parents and included difficulties with attention, mobility, hearing and fine motor skills. Further areas of specific academic need were identified in mathematics, memory, concentration and confidence. Despite the high level of additional need, only 9.3% of students were reported as receiving additional funding support upon their return to school. Emotional descriptions referring to turmoil, lack of understanding and lack of support were contained within the focus group transcriptions. Results indicated a high level of specific educational and psychosocial needs for this group of students who, having overcome a potentially fatal illness, must continue to fight to learn.

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Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: B.M. Donnan, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Sydney, Australia, Ronald McDonald House, PO Box 268 New Lambton, NSW 2305. Email: barbd@rmhnnsw.org.au
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The Educational and Developmental Psychologist
  • ISSN: 2059-0776
  • EISSN: 2059-0784
  • URL: /core/journals/educational-and-developmental-psychologist
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