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Depending on the type of transplant and how recovery goes, a child may go back to school within several months of transplant. Other children may go back to school a year or more after transplant. Your child may work with a teacher or tutor to keep up with school work before returning to the classroom. You can help prepare your child, teachers and classmates to make the return to school, whenever it happens, a little smoother.

Prepare the school for your child

Before your child goes back to school:

  • Ask your transplant doctor, psychologist, or social worker to write a letter to explain your child’s situation and request special accommodations from the school system. Send copies of the letter to the principal, teachers and school nurse.
  • Meet with teachers, school nurses and school staff, like the principal or guidance counselor. Tell them about the medicines your child is taking and how it may impact their mood or behavior. Plan what to do if issues come up during the school day.
  • Talk to the school about any special accommodations your child may need. Accommodations can include:
    • More time to finish assignments or take tests
    • The ability to use calculators and recorders
    • Completing assignments in a different way. For example, if your child has a hard time writing, ask if they can provide verbal answers.
    • More bathroom breaks
    • See the section on “Your child’s education rights” on page 10 for more information about receiving special services at school.

Prepare your child for school

You and your child may experience many emotions as your child returns to the classroom. Your child may feel excited, hesitant and self-conscious. Classmates may not know what to say and will likely have questions.

Before the first day back at school, talk to your child’s classmates about transplant and answer their questions. You can also help your child plan for how to answer questions. Some children and teens like to use a straightforward approach, like, “I was in the hospital and had a transplant to treat a disease. Now the disease is gone. I still wear a mask and take medicine to protect me from germs that could make me sick.”

Depending on your child’s age and personality, they may want to answer these questions or have a teacher or others from the school do this. The best thing you can do is talk with your child and come up with a plan that they’re comfortable with.

Carol, transplant recipient Carol, transplant recipient

Tips to help your child adjust

Elementary school – Talk to other parents and arrange for your child to spend time with friends. Let other parents know that your child isn’t too sick to play with other healthy, vaccinated kids.
Junior high school – A child’s focus is often on identifying with a peer group. Ask the school to help your child participate in activities in and out of the classroom as safely as possible.
High school – Your teen may want to connect with peers, but also find a unique identity. Support your teen by encouraging safe choices and healthy connections.

Remember to check in with your child to see how they’re adjusting. Maybe it’s talking during dinner or a car ride, or asking them to “rate your day.” Check in with your child’s teachers and counselors, too.

If your child is reluctant to go to school

There are many reasons a child or teen may not want to go to school. Talk to your child to learn what’s going on. Knowing the cause will help you find a solution.

For example, if your child has trouble concentrating or lacks energy to get through the school day, talk to the school about easing back into the routine. You may want to try shorter days or home tutoring for a while.

If bullying is happening, talk to the teachers and principal right away for help stopping the bullying behavior. Remember, you are your child’s advocate. Insist on what’s best for your child.

Your child’s education rights

After transplant, your child may need special services at school. For children in K-12, these special services are typically part of an Individual Education Program (IEP) or 504 Plan.

Individual Education Program (IEP)

• A legal document that explains your child’s needs, the special services the school will provide and how the school will measure your child’s progress.
• Requires an evaluation by a professional, like a school psychologist to see if your child qualifies for special services
• Handled the same way in every school district

504 Plan

• A document that explains services your child will receive but it’s not as detailed as the IEP.
• Requires an evaluation by a professional, like a school psychologist, to see if your child qualifies for special services. The school can gather information from many sources, like what you and your child’s teachers have observed, a doctor’s diagnosis and the results of an IEP evaluation, if one was done.
• Can be handled differently by each school district.

If your child qualifies for either an IEP or a 504 Plan, you’ll work with school staff to make a plan for your child.

Talk to your child’s teacher or school staff to learn more about IEPs and 504 Plans and to schedule an evaluation. Ask your transplant center social worker for help getting any required documents. To learn more about special education services, go to

When your child is going back to college

Your child may or may not be ready to take on a full class load when going back to college. Reassure them that’s okay. They may need to ease back into things just like people who are going back to work.

Before starting the next college semester, encourage your child to:
• Meet with the school’s disabilities office or academic services to learn about the resources available.
• Meet with a professor in their area of interest or major and ask for their support. They may be able to give advice and be your child’s advocate if needed.
• Talk with each professor before classes start or soon after. Work with the professors to set reasonable accommodations for completing assignments.


The American Childhood Cancer Organization offers a booklet for parents and teachers called Educating the Child with Cancer: A Guide for Parents and Teachers.
LD Online offers resources for parents wanting to learn more about the IEP process.
• For tips on how to address bullying, go to or
The National Children’s Cancer Society offers educational resources, including the Beyond the Cure Ambassador Scholarship program. The program provides college scholarships to childhood cancer survivors.

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