1st-of-Its-Kind Program Helps Children Diagnosed With Life-Threatening Disease Keep Up in School

PedsAcademy started at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Florida

Parents work hard to make sure their children don't fall behind, but when a child is diagnosed with cancer or another life-threatening disease, homework is the last thing on their minds. That's where a first-of-its-kind program comes in.

Almost one year ago, 10-year-old August Terry was diagnosed with a bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma. Chemotherapy, radiation and hospital stays meant going to school was not an option.

"It was really devastating to her, as far as not being able to go to school and interact with her peers," August's mother Wendy Terry said.

Thankfully, August is being treated at Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Florida, which means she got to join PedsAcademy, a first-of-its-kind, in-hospital school with 3D printers, virtual reality and robots.

"They make like normal school into like fun things," August Terry said.

There are no boring work sheets and courses are tailored towards kids' needs.

"Those courses are redesigned so that our preservice teachers can understand the medical condition of the child and understand what accommodations need to happen in lesson planning," said Megan Nickels, assistant professor of STEM Education at the University of Central Florida and faculty director of PedsAcademy.

Like 11-year-old Neal Christie, who suffered a rare stroke. At PedsAcademy, his interest in robots blossomed.

"Over here, this is what makes it walk," Christie said.

He even won the "future engineers" award for his project in the science fair.

And unlike many hospital programs with up to a one to 400 teacher-student ratio, PedsAcademy steps it up a notch.

"We have a 60 to 100 teacher student ratio," Nickels said.

That means Terry and Christie get an amazing education, until they're ready to head home.

PedsAcademy is available free of charge to all children up through collegiate studies, whether they're in Nemours hospital for days or years. Not only do patients keep up with their peers, Nickels said that after their six-month program in robotics, students are a grade advanced in mathematics. Currently there are other hospitals around the country interested in adopting this model in order to have their own PedsAcademy.

Contributors to this news report include: Hayley Hudson, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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