School Holiday Program continues in 2014

The School Holiday Program continues in 2014, having run successfully throughout 2013. The programs are both educational and fun, and designed to address the ‘working memory’ issues of children undergoing cancer treatment.
These innovative programs are the first of their kind anywhere in Australia and are being conducted with the full support of PMH School Services. The programs are also supported by WA’s leading science education centre, Scitech, which is providing the science education pack for the programs.

The programs run for 5 full days during each of the short breaks and for 3 weeks of the summer break in January. They are theme-based, with a different theme for each program and include script-writing and movie-making, art and science-based sessions. The art based workshops have a specific focus on projects that would help kids with their working memory and fine motor skills.

Projects such as Woven Dream Catchers required the kids to focus and work on maintaining patterns. Mask painting meant that they needed to create designs, decide on colour schemes and concentrate on their motor control while applying their paint. Other children chose to create an artwork based on the work of a famous artist (e.g. Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’). This meant that they needed to carefully examine the original artwork, identify the colour scheme and the main elements of the image, and then create their own version.

Some of the added benefits for participants included the chance to be in a social setting where they could focus on an activity that was completely separate from any treatment that they may be receiving. Participants were able to stay for up to 2 hours at a time, but it also catered for short visits in between other appointments or treatment. The workshops also provided opportunities for siblings to be included and provided some much needed respite for parents and carers.

Feedback from the children and their parents was overwhelmingly positive, and parents in particular, expressed the need for such programs to be on-going as it made their child’s experience of being in hospital and having treatment a much more positive one.

Bam Bam joined in the holiday art and craft program at PMH. She enjoyed getting out of bed and joining the girls each day. I was very impressed with the program and it helped the parents and kids to have a good time and get back to reality. This is our fourth treatment and I have never seen my daughter so happy. Thank you very much.
John and Ananya Waldeck (and Daughter, Bam Bam- aged 12)
Both the kids enjoyed the art activities. It was awesome to have the program available over the holidays to keep the children occupied.
Suzette (Samuel-aged 10 and Madison- aged 7)

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Why Are Holiday Programs Needed?

The stressful nature of cancer has a significant impact on the mental wellbeing and working memory of children. Further, the toxicity of most cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy result in immediate and sometimes long term cognitive impairment to the children treated . Following representations from No Matter What, the PMH School Services extended the school day for primary aged children in the Oncology Ward from half days to full days and introduced ‘working memory’ programs catering specifically for these students’ educational needs.

The holiday programs complement these initiatives. They recognise that the cycle of cancer treatment is unique to each child and does not follow the normal school calendar. Given the substantial medical benefits that flow from hospital based schooling, it is important that children in the Oncology Ward have access to schooling during holiday breaks. The holiday programs also help alleviate the boredom associated with long periods of hospitalisation.