BMT impacts the growth and development of children in a variety of ways. It is important for parents to get informations about factors, issues, and concerns that can affect their child’s learning, as well as what can be done to prevent or address problems that may arise. Many of the medications and procedures used to treat cancer and for BMT protocols, are known to cause short- or long-term side effects that can affect functioning. As more children now survive cancer and become adults, we have learned that late effects also may occur, often many years after the BMT.
The psychosocial development of children and their entire family, is also affected by catastrophic illness and the family disruption that is caused by BMT. Much support for coping is available to patients and families from BMT social workers, child life specialists, parent support groups, and online BMT communities. There are now also specialized organizations and social networking groups for teens and young adult patients, as well as for the brothers and sisters of patients, who are affected by their sibling’s illness and treatment.
BMT also affects the education of school-age children (generally those ages 3-18), at the very least by interrupting their schooling. Students may be unable to attend school for many months in order to protect them from infections. Some may have already missed school during pre-transplant cancer treatment. Students who cannot attend school for health reasons are entitled to special accomodations and services to ensure that their educational needs are met, under both federal and Washington state laws. Some BMT patients also may have special learning needs (related to their disease and/or its treatment) that make them eligible or special education programs and services.