Adolescent Program

It's hard enough being a teenager. But what about being a teen who has to cope with the effects of a life-altering accident or illness? At Shepherd Center, medical treatment for adolescents with spinal cord injuries focuses on returning teens to the highest possible level of functioning and independence.

Teen Camaraderie

Each year more than 100 adolescents, ages 12 to 21, come to Shepherd Center from all over the country. They or their families choose Shepherd for its specialized treatment teams, age-appropriate therapy and expertise in treating teens and young adults with spinal cord injuries.

The adolescent rehabilitation program follows Shepherd Center's philosophy of returning patients to the highest possible level of functioning and independence, while addressing adolescents' needs for autonomy, privacy and control.

Hallmarks of the adolescent program include:

  • A physician-led, 10-member treatment team dedicated to adolescent patients.
  • Individual rehabilitation sessions in the same gym area as other teens.
  • Teens-only support groups and visits from former teen patients.
  • Education and training in problem solving, stigma management, self-advocacy, drug and alcohol awareness, self-care and sexuality .
  • Community outings, which include going to restaurants, shopping malls, sports arenas and even camping, to promote problem-solving and the experience of being out in the community in a supportive group.
  • An on-staff teacher who keeps patients up to date on schoolwork.
  • An innovative school-reintegration program that helps lessen anxiety for teachers, classmates and the newly injured adolescent.
  • A high priority on the involvement of family and friends.


Staying on track academically is extremely important for catastrophically injured teens. More than 90 percent of our spinal cord-injured adolescent patients return to school within two weeks of discharge. Of those, 95 percent graduate on time with their class and with their pre-injury GPA. For adolescents with a brain injury, 95 percent return to school within three to six months.

Return-to-School Program

Adolescents rely on school experiences and positive peer interactions for much of their self-esteem and growth. Shepherd Center has developed a program for teens with spinal cord injuries called No Obstacles, to facilitate the back-to-school transition.

Designed by the individual patient, the program can include in-school awareness and sensitivity training for school staff and students, as well as instruction in medical issues that may arise during the school day. Support from our donors makes this program available to most teen patients at no cost.

Patient Stories of Hope 

Patients in the adolescent spinal cord injury program share their stories and speak about their experiences with Shepherd Center.