“My School Is Where My Friends Are”: Interpreting the Drawings of Children With Cancer


Thousands of children are diagnosed with cancer each year and are unable to participate in normative developmental and cultural contexts such as school. Little is known about how children with cancer perceive attending school in alternative settings, such as the home and hospital, while receiving treatment. This study coded the drawings of 10 children with cancer to explore how they perceive these school experiences; adapted from previous developmental and medical literature, drawings were analyzed for expressions across developmental domains and representations of the illness experience. It was found that participants primarily represented social perceptions of their school experiences; physical and illness-related representations were varied and often absent from the drawings. Participants perceived schooling through a social lens, suggesting the need for interventions to maximize social interactions with teachers and peers in this population. Teachers working with children with cancer should maximize socialization opportunities during hospitalization and treatment to promote continued development. In addition, policymakers and health care administrators should fund and implement interactive and educational group programs for children with cancer and apply techniques to help these students remain connected with classmates in the community even during cancer therapy.

Publication Title

Journal of Research in Childhood Education