brochure for Teachers teaching children with cancer

The brochure “F-I-T for School” aims to highlight support options in the school context for children and adolescents with brain tumor disease or other cancer types. F-I-T stands not only for physical and mental well-being and performance but also for fair, integrated, and transparent, thus underlining the motto of the brochure: The aim is to fairly compensate for a disadvantage caused by illness, which has nothing to do with “favoring” the affected students. The authors are convinced that a transparent approach to the disease and good communication between all parties involved can significantly facilitate the integration of the affected students.

In the brochure, you will first find general information on cancer and treatment as well as on the legal basis (Austrian law). This is followed by a collection of support options that teachers can implement in consultation with the affected child and family. The support options are formulated once in general terms and then in relation to specific impairments that can occur in the context of a cancer illness (e.g. reduced resilience or impairment of attention and concentration). It is very nice that concrete recommendations for action are suggested for the individual impairments. For example, the following support options are presented for reduced resilience:

  • Gradual integration (initially reduced number of hours, which is then increased step by step)
  • Individual task setting/ performance testing and evaluation
  • Individual arrangement of breaks
  • Allowing eating and drinking in case of strong “energy drop”
  • Allowing exercise and other activating measures

In addition to support options, specific symptoms and indicators by which to recognize the presence of impairment are mentioned. Let’s stay with the example of reduced resilience – here the following symptoms are listed:

  • Difficulty getting to school on time
  • Severe fatigue and exhaustion, which increase as the school day goes on
  • Listlessness
  • Increased irritability
  • Impaired concentration or memory difficulties
  • Frequent confusion
  • Slower work style
  • Less interaction with classmates
  • Decreased appetite

In general, the different support options should be used individually and in accordance with the specific impairments and possible long-term consequences. The observations of teachers in the classroom situation are very important! Therefore, there is plenty of room for notes in the brochure. A joint approach with the respective student, the parents, and the responsible contact person in the clinic or aftercare facility is highly recommended in order to develop an optimal concept for supporting the students and to implement it in the classroom. A “student profile” at the beginning of the brochure provides space for taking notes about individual illness-specific facts, personal strengths and weaknesses as well as agreed goals. In the best case, this information can be gathered in a joint discussion with all those involved.

In addition, good communication and disclosure of information significantly facilitate the social integration of the affected students. Therefore, teachers should also inform classmates with the consent of the affected students and their parents. Furthermore, a continuous mutual exchange, also within the teaching staff, is desirable (e.g., in case of class transition or a change of the class teacher). It is important to obtain the consent of the affected student and his or her parents before such a discussion.

At the end of the brochure, four case studies are discussed, which provide a good insight into the implementation of strategies and associated challenges in everyday school life.