Thank you to our TDSB teachers for their care all year!
By Katie Grandin
Adjusting to life as a patient at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) can be emotional and overwhelming, but a sense of routine and familiarity with a patient’s home life can ease their transition to and from SickKids.
SickKids has partnered with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) since 1892 as a Section 23 program, providing schooling to students who require education outside of the regular class system in a specialized setting. For patients who would otherwise miss out on the typical activities of attending school, the program helps to normalize their situation, provide the educational supports they may need, and ultimately support their transitions back to their mainstream classrooms.
“For many children who are in and out of the hospital or have lengthy stays here, the TDSB program offers them with an opportunity to engage in one-on-one sessions with amazing teachers who can tailor the workload to the educational needs of the individual child,” says Karen Sappleton, Manager of Child and Family-Centred Care and Health Equity. “The teachers have an incredible understanding of the complexities of the medical, psychosocial and cognitive needs of our patients and work with both the child and family to ensure their educational needs are supported while in the hospital.”
School is available to all inpatients at the hospital, as well as patients who visit during the day on a regular basis for something such as dialysis or day treatment in the Haematology/Oncology Clinic.
The TDSB program, which follows the TDSB calendar, offers elementary and secondary bedside teaching, along with dedicated classrooms for the epilepsy program, the substance abuse day treatment program and the eating disorders day hospital program. A teacher from the Conseil scolaire de district catholique Centre-Sud also offers instruction in French to both elementary and secondary students. The TDSB program contributes to child and family-centred care by recognizing that children want to feel that they are still connected to their regular lives.
The TDSB presence at SickKids allows for specialized programs that contribute to patient care. The substance abuse and eating disorders day classrooms are offered to secondary school patients as an element of their scheduled treatment.
The epilepsy classroom caters to children who have intractable epilepsy, ongoing seizure activity despite maximal medical treatment, as well as children who have recently undergone brain surgery for intractable epilepsy. Students register for the entire school year of this full-day, elementary program. It offers a more comprehensive curriculum and the opportunity for students to socialize with their friends in the class in a safe and supportive setting.
As part of their programming, secondary students are paired with elementary students, giving them the opportunity to build relationships and connections, as well as learn to establish themselves as role models.
“Working here offers a chance to get to know the students individually and tailor the programming to suit their needs. As a teacher it’s nice and as an English teacher it’s especially beautiful because I’m able to connect with the students and recommend them specific books to read to support their treatment,” says Julie Birrell, a TDSB secondary English teacher at SickKids.
School plays a large role in the patient's experience at SickKids and with so much time spent with the children on a daily basis, teachers develop strong relationships with the students and their families.
“It's heartwarming when students have been discharged from the hospital, and when they return for a check-up, they make a point to come and look for one of the teachers to let us know how well they are doing in school,” says Lisa Pigat, a TDSB elementary teacher at SickKids.
Pigat says families appreciate the support the TDSB teachers offer during their stay, and that they will often keep in touch with the teachers long after they have left SickKids.
“SickKids gives me the opportunity to work in a very unique and caring environment, and be a part of a multi-disciplinary team. The kids here are truly special,” says Pigat. “I love the special bond that I develop with each student. I love seeing them get better, and seeing the smile on their face when they know they get to go home.”
Thank you to all our TDSB teachers for supporting our patients in their education and helping them feel at home! See you in September!