Educational Issues: The Impact of Cancer in the Classroom

  • Christine L. Trask
  • Catherine C. Peterson


Both during and after treatment, children with cancer can have specific educational needs, related to physical, social-emotional, and cognitive factors. While in treatment, the focus is often on ways to support a child’s ongoing attendance or involvement in school, whereas after treatment, there is an increased focus on management of specific learning or cognitive issues, which can be direct sequelae of treatment and may emerge over time. Children treated for cancer, particularly those with a central nervous system malignancy or those treated with cranial radiation, are at highest risk for educational difficulties. Families of survivors with educational problems are typically distressed by the particular pattern and timing of deficits, but they may have different needs about when and how to discuss those issues. In addition to supporting children and their families, clinicians also need to inform and educate school personnel. Teachers and school psychologists often have limited training or knowledge about educational issues specifically related to childhood cancer, and parents may not be aware of the school-based services or how to access them. According to federal law, children with a health issue that significantly impacts their success at school can be eligible for special education services, accommodations, and supports within the school. Intervention may include instructional approaches, cognitive remediation, psychopharmacological treatments, and ongoing advocacy. This chapter aims to provide background and guidance for clinicians working with children with cancer to help support their academic success and promote optimal educational outcomes during and after cancer treatment.


Special education School reentry 



The authors thank Megan Adriance for her collaboration in the development of a survey of school personnel related to neurocognitive late effects (NCLE). They also thank Michael Anderson for his input related to classroom dynamics.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorRhode Island Hospital/The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorSchool of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyEastern Michigan UniversityYpsilantiUSA

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