Teacher's knowledge and support systems regarding students with terminal illness

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Kathryn Wolff Heller
Mari Beth Coleman
Sherwood J. Best
Judith Emerson


This study examined teachers’ knowledge and support when working with students with terminal illness or having experienced a student death. One hundred and ninety teachers of students with physical or multiple disabilities responded to a 40 item questionnarionnaire that was distributed nationally. Results indicated that teachers have greater knowledge and support in this area than 21 years ago, although there continues to be deficits. For teachers receiving support, the school nurse was identified as their primary source of support, as well as the primary source to answer questions, and discuss the teachers’ role. School counselors were identified as the primary support for classmates (in addition to receiving support from their teacher). Teachers identified several areas in which they wanted assistance and support which have implications for future research and training.


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Heller, K. W., Coleman, M. B., Best, S. J., & Emerson, J. (2013). Teacher’s knowledge and support systems regarding students with terminal illness. Research, Advocacy, and Practice for Complex and Chronic Conditions, 32(2), 11–37. https://doi.org/10.14434/pders.v32i2.12994