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How Shriners Children’s Most Amazing Care Heals From the Inside Out

therapist working with child

Here we see a behavioral therapist incorporating play into a patient's therapy.

Experiencing a burn injury is traumatic for a child and their family. Not only can a burn permanently change their outer appearance, but for some children, it can also cause big changes for them on the inside too. That is why, at Shriners Children’s Texas, a dedicated team of compassionate and skilled behavioral professionals are there to walk alongside a child who has a burn injury, every step of the way. They provide care for the child’s emotional well-being, and that of their families, throughout their entire journey of recovery.

Staci Grant, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Shriners Children’s, said that mental health care plays a significant part in a patient’s recovery from a burn injury. That care starts the moment they begin their treatment. A member of the team meets with the caregiver and child to evaluate if the child is experiencing emotional and behavioral difficulties, such as decreased appetite, inadequate sleep patterns, and signs of conditions like anxiety, depression and trauma.

“It takes a village” to help children recover from burn trauma, said Grant. She added that other children, students, school officials, and even friends can help a child with their recovery journey.

With so much downtime between appointments, Grant said it is common for children and their families to gravitate toward one another on their own. Having similar injuries and treatments, children and their families often find community and friendship while on the road to recovery. “A lot of children find validation when they find out ‘this person has been through the same thing,’” said Grant, who also mentioned the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors as a great resource for these children and their families.

When it comes to behavioral therapy, Grant said that building rapport is the first step in getting a child invested in the treatment process. “Having them play or do an activity that they are interested in can be helpful because it makes children think they're coming to therapy just to play,” she said. During therapy, a team member will monitor the child while starting conversations focused on coping skills and managing negative feelings following their trauma.

Shriners Children’s Texas also offers families help by producing a school re-entry video for children who sustained burns and are preparing to return home. The video outlines what students and teachers need to know as the child returns to their home school. They emphasize that while the child may have gone through a traumatic injury, they can still do some of the activities they enjoyed before their burn. “We work with students and teachers to remind them that the child is not a ‘burned child,’ but a child that has a burn,” said Grant.

While many children are concerned with how they look following a burn, they often imagine things will be much worse than they turn out. In Dr. Grant’s experience, children with burns recover in different ways and at different rates, but the majority become “resilient.” She emphasizes in her care with them, that ultimately it is up to them to answer the question: “Will it matter that I have scars?” After experiencing the most amazing care anywhere at Shriners Children’s, for most, it simply does not.

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