Support for school reentry and relationships between children with cancer, peers, and teachers

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Abstract

Background:

Returning to school after a cancer diagnosis can be socially challenging for children with cancer. This study investigated the form of support for school reentry and the associations with social support from peers and teachers.

Methods:

This was a multicenter cross-sectional study. Children with cancer and their guardians completed questionnaires. Their guardians also underwent a semi-structured interview to describe the background of support for school reentry.

Results:

Thirty-nine children with cancer and guardian dyads completed questionnaires and three guardians underwent semi-structured interview. Peer visits and their understanding of hospital experiences and how to interact with children were related to social support from peers. Teachers' understanding of physical appearance, academic performance, hospital experience and of how to interact with children was related to social support from peers. Teachers' understanding of diagnosis/treatment, academic performance and their status as the liaison between doctors/nurses in hospitals and teachers in local schools were also related to social support from teachers. Furthermore, children with cancer were also encouraged to establish supportive relationships with peers and teachers as a result of school reentry support that (i) helped children to feel that they are still members of the local school; (ii) improved peer and teacher understanding of the long-term recovery process of children with cancer; and (iii) facilitated the children's own awareness that they are fighting the disease.

Conclusions:

The multidisciplinary team consisting of the children with cancer, their families, doctors, nurses and teachers in the local school need to communicate with peers regarding positive experiences of fighting, and overcoming, severe disease.

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