Retinoblastoma and Preparing For School
After the trauma of your child’s eye cancer, preparing for school can be a challenge or a welcome relief.
If your child is still receiving treatment, this will add an extra dimension to your planning for school.
Your child’s needs will depend largely on how retinoblastoma and its treatment has affected her vision.
If your child has unilateral retinoblastoma with good vision in the unaffected eye, she will have few limitations and will likely continue life as normal after treatment.
If your child has impaired vision in both eyes, she will need much more support in school. She may need support from a teacher of the visually impaired to learn Braille and mobility skills. She may need special equipment, large print or Braille materials, and one-to-one support in class.
Individual Education Plan
Visit the pre-schools / schools in your area, and soak up the atmosphere. Chat with the staff. Find out how they support children with special needs, and consider whether will be able to look after your child and help her reach her full potential.
Many countries provide early intervention programs to assess the child’s needs and establish a support plan before formal education begins. If your child has not had an assessment, ask your education authority what support services are available to help you develop an education plan.
Prepare the staff who will look after your child. Explain her cancer and treatment, and how this may affect her at school. If the school has teacher responsible for children with special needs, ensure this person is fully involved in discussions and setting up your child’s education plan.
Before School Begins
Meet the class teacher before school begins. Talk with the teacher about your child’s needs, and clarify the education plan. If you are not happy with any element of it, discuss your concerns with the class teacher and request a further meeting together with the special needs coordinator.
If your child has an artificial eye, develop an artificial eye plan detailing what to do if any issues arise. If she is receiving chemotherapy, explain infection risk and create an infection control plan.
Bullying can arise when children do not have adequate information to inform their actions. Discuss how the teacher can help other children understand about retinoblastoma, to support your child and reduce or prevent misunderstandings, fears and exclusion that lead to bullying.
Talk with your child also about how much information she is willing for you and the teacher to share with other children in the class. Explain the benefits of knowledge but respect her feelings – if she doesn’t want other people to know about her cancer or special eye, ensure the teachers are aware of this.