CHEO – Hospital (Secondary)


The McHugh classroom at CHEO, located in Alta Vista, serves students who are current patients of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The eight McHugh teachers are responsible for taking a trauma-informed approach,while delivering services to three main programs within the hospital. All students are admitted by physicians and referred to the school by the professionals in the various programs with parental consent.  Schools and community agencies cannot refer directly to the CHEO hospital programs.

The Care and Treatment programs at CHEO are located in three main areas.

In-patient crisis psychiatric unit (6E) – Patients on the Adolescent Mental Health In-Patient Crisis Unit (6E), are typically aged 12-17 and are referred to the unit through the emergency department where they are triaged for mental health crises.  Those who can’t plan for safety and present with severe symptoms are admitted for stabilization and assessment. There are 19 beds on 6E for both Anglophone and Francophone patients.  Anglophone patients who are well enough and have signed a consent to attend will come to the classroom daily for the duration of their stay. These students have an academic period in the morning form 9:30 – 11:00 where they focus on keeping up with their community school work.  They have class from 12:30 – 1:30 where they can choose from a number of art activities. This art period helps the teachers connect with those patients who have refused academic support and to discern what some of the difficulties might be surrounding school engagement for these patients and allows the students to practice being in a classroom setting while engaged in a non-threatening activity. Teachers attend daily rounds from 9:00 – 9:30 to review the profiles of newly admitted patients and to receive feedback on the progress of current patients.  Teachers contact community school guidance counsellors, collaborate on academic planning and attend discharge planning meetings. They communicate discharge planning details and recommended support to the community school.

2. Eating Disorders Programs 

The Eating Disorders Program (EDP) has two separate groups that participate in school.  There are 6 dedicated beds for the Inpatient EDP program. These students are admitted through the Eating Disorders Outpatient Clinic or Emergency Department.  They are medically unstable and the focus is to re-nourish, stabilize and discharge them to home. There is a family-based focused in this program. These students attend school daily, for an hour.  The teachers liaise with the community school staff to collaborate on the best academic program for the student. The teachers are also very aware of the cognitive effects of the eating disorder on these students.

The EDP Day Program is for those students who are weight restored and focused on recovering from their eating disorder.  They are referred from the outpatient clinic and inpatient program. There are 8 spots in the program and, ideally, a student is in the program for 12-16 weeks.  Patients participate in a combination of group and individual therapy sessions, nutrition group, art and self-expression group and eat all their meals together. They also receive about 10 hours of school a week in the McHugh classroom with two dedicated teachers.  Students are encouraged to focus on 2 credits from their community school and the teachers liaise with the community school on how to best deliver these credits. These students are also offered a chance to earn a food and nutrition credit or learning strategies credit that is co-facilitated by the teachers and the professionals in the program.  These students have a transition planning meeting when it is time to return to their community school full-time. Students who require additional support through this transition are offered the outreach services of the McHugh Lead/Transition teacher who can meet with them at their community school and help problem solve any difficulties and encourage the student to practice the strategies they learned in the program.

The In-Patient Program is for patients admitted for severe eating disorders and stabilization. Students have a period of school in the morning and the aim is to help them keep up with their work at their school while a longer-term treatment plan is developed for them. The program uses a family-based therapy approach to help the families find ways to support the youth outside of the hospital. Stays can be a few days to months. The Day Program is a 12-week program designed to help students learn to recover from an eating disorder. It is an intense therapeutic program and includes 1-2 periods of school a day. Students can maintain 2 of their academic courses at their school and are supported in these courses by the McHugh teachers. As well, they can earn HFN 2O, and GLE 2O through work they do with both the clinical staff and teachers.  The main age group is 12-21.

3. Child Life Program

The Child Life program is also known as the bedside teaching program.  Students who are hospitalized for a minimum of three days will receive services from the teachers.  These students can be hospitalized for any medical reason. Students with chronic conditions or oncology and dialysis patients who require weekly treatments are seen on the days that they are at the hospital in the Medical Day Unit (MDU).  The Child Life teachers work one-on-one with a student either at the bedside, in the playrooms or in the McHugh classroom. The teachers liaise with the child’s community school with the focus of keeping the students up with their peers in class.  Two elementary teachers and one secondary teacher meet the needs of all students, grades JK-12.

This program is designed to help students who are hospitalized keep up with their school work and normalize their life while they are dealing with an illness and to benefit their social and emotional health.  Students can be K to grade 12 and are often dealing with long-term, chronic illness such as cancer, cystic fibrosis or rehabilitation after a major injury or shorter term illnesses that involve surgery. Teachers provide highly individualized programming in a variety of settings to best benefit the student.

Hours of Programs: 8:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Referral Process – all students are admitted by physicians. Students and parents in the EDP Day program must give consent in order for their son/daughter to participate in the school program. Students on 6E and Child Life require consent from the student (12 and over) to participate in the program. Teachers require consent from parents/guardians to communicate with the community school.

Return to Home School – return to homeschool is based on discharge from the hospital. In some cases, students return directly and in other situations staff try to establish a transition plan. Teachers on 6E are involved in discharge meetings with the clinical staff and school personnel are often invited to attend. McHugh teachers will provide a short-term stay report (Student at a Glance) with strategies that they have found work in the classroom with a student. Teachers in the Eating Disorders Program are involved in the Transition Plan back to school. Discharge meetings take place at the request of either the therapist or the family. There is also a short-term placement report that can be given to the school with strategies that have worked. Oncology students are supported in their transitions back to school by the two POGO (Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario) interlink nurses who work directly with the schools. Child Life teachers will help with transitions if necessary for all other medical patients.

External Links:

Childlife Blog

IEP fact sheet for parents

Supporting Minds (Ministry of Education)


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