Spotlight on : The Montreal Children's in-hospital teaching program

Going back to school in the fall is a sure thing for most kids. This is not the case for children forced to stop going to school due to illness. But thanks to the in-hospital teaching program at The Montreal Children's Hospital of the MUHC, patients are able to continue their schooling. In what can be an isolating and often difficult experience, being able to continue school with the in-hospital teaching program provides children with a sense of normalcy during their time in the hospital. The Children's ensures the teaching program is not only available to children staying at the hospital but also to children who come to the hospital for regular treatments such as chemotherapy or dialysis.

"We want to make sure that these kids feel that they have exactly the same opportunities as other children," says Louise LeBlanc, a teacher at The Children's. "We regularly liaise with each child's school in order to follow the curriculum and tailor lessons accordingly." This approach taken by the teachers makes sure children don't fall far behind kids their own age and are not at a disadvantage when they eventually return to school.

Teachers at the hospital understand the importance of meeting their student's individual needs. "Lessons are one-on-one and structured around how the child is feeling that day physically, mentally, and emotionally. For example, if they are well enough to work in our office or if they need to have classes in bed," explains LeBlanc.

Fellow teacher Robert Ruffolo echoes the importance of this approach. "We let them lead the way. When a child is undergoing chemotherapy, you have to base the curriculum on how little or how much the child can take at that moment. We are trying to make their life in the hospital easier, not harder."

As well as striving to create a lively and supportive atmosphere, hospital teachers also try to incorporate the vital social aspect of school - helping their students maintain contact with friends and teachers at school by facilitating a constant exchange of letters, faxes and cards.

The in-hospital teaching program demonstrates The Children's commitment to ensure that children have every opportunity for a brighter future and a happier today.
By Anita Kar