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Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals

Therapeutic Learning Center Supports School Re-Entry

August 21, 2023

From anxious and sad to excited and happy, emotions run high on the first day of school. And for students recovering from a traumatic injury or serious illness, returning to school carries its own set of unique challenges.

Fortunately, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals’ Therapeutic Learning Center strives to make that transition as easy as possible.

While at Madonna, school-aged patients meet with teachers for 30 minutes, five days a week. The educational specialists will work on different curriculum with patients and also coordinate conversations with school administration and counselors to determine how many credits they have and how they can remain on grade level with their peers.

“For some kids, it’s a major way for them to stay on track so they don’t get off from their peers and they don’t have to return to school and be different from everybody that they’ve been in school with all their lives,” Deb Buchholz, Madonna’s therapeutic educational coordinator, said.

Once a patient discharges from Madonna, Buchholz hosts a school meeting that includes the therapy team, nurses and the home school. The treatment team educates the school and helps create 504 or Individualized Education Program (IEP) plans , which both provide accommodations to support the student. An IEP is very specific and requires detailed evaluations of the special education needs of a student, while a 504 is for children with a diagnosis of a physical or emotional disability who do not qualify special education, but still need accommodations in the classroom. When necessary, they can also help guide schools on hiring another teacher or para educator as well as obtaining wheelchair accessible transportation in the district.

“Our teams will meet with the school directly so that they can hand off those children and make certain that they have their neighborhood school up-to-speed in terms of their therapeutic needs that we are identifying here at Madonna,” Pediatric Program Manager Jeff Stec, MS, CCC-SLP, MRMC, said. “Many times our kids have been on a particular track with their school district and then because of an event or an injury, they now have to realign some of those goals and dreams.”

Buchholz explained that there is an 11-page school re-entry checklist that the patient’s therapy team completes so the school knows exactly where the student is physically, cognitively and in terms of social-emotional health when they leave Madonna. This allows the care team to educate the school and help them prepare for the student to come back to their district and be successful.

“We get the school ready for the child,” Buchholz said. “The child never has to be ready for school, the school has to be ready for the child when they're returning.”