Your child may seem nervous or fretful about school reentry after a burn injury, but returning to school is a significant step in child burn survivors’ healing journeys. Children who are going back to school after a burn injury may stress over and fear how classmates will treat them, whether other students will bully them about scars, and concerned about the stares and questions they may get.

However, by including your child’s school, teachers, and members of her burn care team (psychiatrist, social workers, physicians) in a back-to-school plan, you can help ease the transition for her.

When should your child go back to school after a burn injury?

Research studies have found that burn survivors may fare better when they resume “normal” life as soon as practical. Adults who return to work and children who return to school sooner rather than later seem to have better long-term outcomes.

Your child’s doctor will let you know when your child is able to go back to school and if there are any limitations to consider. It may be days or months before reentry, depending on the injury.

While children with severe third-degree and fourth-degree injuries will require a longer healing period, the average time from a burn accident to school reentry is actually quite short. According to a study in Journal of Burn Care & Research, the average time it takes for burn survivors to get back to school is 10.5 days.

How do I help my child prepare for school reentry?

“Start talking about a back-to-school plan as soon as your child is medically stable and out of immediate danger. The first few days after your child is admitted to the hospital is a good time to start,” recommends the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC).

You cannot alleviate all the stress your child may be experiencing about returning to school, but there are ways you can help make the transition smoother.

  • Call the school and inform them of what has happened and when your child might be returning. Your child’s doctor or other burn care specialist may need to provide the school with a letter explaining any limitations your child may have. You can also share with the administrators any pertinent information if you are using a formal school reentry program (discussed in more detail below).
  • Ask the school what types of accommodations it can make if your child has certain needs, e.g., flexible schedules, help taking notes, help with garments or splints during school hours, etc.
  • Address your child’s concerns directly. For example, if she is worried about answering questions or receiving stares, help her come up with alternative ways to handle the situation. A child specialist at a burn care center may help your child with coping skills, too.
  • Be there mentally and emotionally for your child, offer encouragement, and give her the support she needs during this challenging time.

Are there any other school re-entry resources available?

You might find formal school reentry programs helpful. Check if your hospital offers one of these programs, such as the school reentry programs at University of Iowa Children’s Hospital and Akron Children’s Hospital.

You should also research your legal options regarding your child’s burns. If another party’s negligence or carelessness caused the injury, you might be entitled to financial compensation for your expenses, like medical bills, and the effects of the burn injury on your child, like scarring and pain and suffering. If you need help finding a lawyer to answer questions and help you file a burn injury claim, call our lawyer referral specialists at 844-549-8774.