Being a Child Life Specialist is great, but I feel that I cannot take full credit for the wonderful work that I do. There are many amazing organizations out there that work to provide Child Life teams around the nation with tools and materials that will help make the hospital experience less scary. Below are some of my personal favorites:
For every headband purchased, 1 is donated to a girl with cancer and $1 is donated to St.Baldrick’s. I love headbands of hope and it’s thanks to them that on more than one occasion I’ve been able to bring smiles (and super cute headbands) to dozens of girls battling cancer.
Inspired by Jessie Rees, the organization NEGU (Never Ever Give Up) has made it it’s mission to send a joy jar to children with cancer nation wide. NEGU makes it possible to give a jar full of (age appropriate) FUN to our oncology patients whenever they come to the hospital.
Project Sunshine is a volunteer based organization that provides crafts and supplies for hospitalized children. There are a variety of things that Project Sunshine provides its hospitals with, my personal favorite for the ER are the craft kits!
I will be forever grateful for Kid Flicks – we all know how popular movie watching is in the hospital setting as well as how quickly DVD’s are lost, damaged, or stolen. I contacted them when I first began working in my department where there hadn’t been a child life specialist in over a year. Needless to say the DVD collection need some major TLC! After a couple of e-mails, I had a box with 100 DVD’s in my hands.
Digging Deep is an incredible resource for school-aged/teen patients facing health-care challenges. It is beautifully written and designed to be appealing for the age group. I am incredibly thankful to be able to provide such an amazing resource for my patients that need it most. (side note: they just released their Spanish version!)
This is a topic that I hold very near and dear to my heart, so much so that I am working on my masters degree in developmental disabilities! As like any new Child Life Specialist, it’s already challenging enough to master the art of effectively matching appropriate interventions to a patient’s temperament, family influence, and medical procedure, while working alongside the multidisciplinary team and balancing everything else that comes with the job. Now throw into the loop a child with a developmental disability with whom you have little or no experience in providing support and services for, things can surely become overwhelming. Remember, I work in an emergency room so my scenarios (with any patient) are often quick, urgent, and stressful. So, what’s my game plan? How can I provide Child Life services in a situation where my usual go-to interventions may not be as effective?
First and foremost: ask the parent/caregiver! This is your best source of information because they know exactly what their child needs to cope and feel most comfortable. I will often introduce myself to the patient and the family and then ask them how I can help their child – what form of distraction works best for them? are there any particular environmental changes I can make to help him/her feel more comfortable (dimming the lights, allowing him/her to sit on a chair vs the bed, warmer temperature in the room)? what is his/her favorite cartoon/character?
After speaking with the parent/caregiver, I will have some information in my back pocket on how I can adjust my interventions for this unique situation. Also, I always make sure and have specific toys set aside for kids with special needs – tactile sensory toys, toys that light up, toys that make noise, puzzles with pegs, etc.
I had a chance to ask parents of children with special needs what they felt are some things that heath care professionals can keep in mind when working with their child. Below are their responses:
Please be mindful that just like their typically developing peers, children with special needs are all unique in their own ways – there is no “one size fits all” intervention. What may work for one child may not for another, regardless of their disability/diagnosis.
- iPad for distraction
- Asking the doctor to remove his/her white lab coat before entering the room
- Providing sensory friendly toys
- Dimming the lights
- Providing ear mitts to reduce all the noise (it’s easy to forget how noisy the hospital setting really is – everything is beeping, overhead PA, constant new people walking into the room, phones ringing, medical equipment, etc.)
- Fluorescent light blocker
- Lead vest to weigh down on the child (maybe your radiology department has an extra one they can lend you!)
- Bean bag toy ( http://www.orientaltrading.com/reinforced-bean-bags-a2-61_4000.fltr?Ntt=bean%20bag )
- Disney Soundtrack
- Not spending a long time in the waiting room, being a priority to get into a room and be seen
- Having animal figurines for him/her to play with
- Having candy such as bubblegum, lollipops, or skittles (this one depends on a LOT, be sure to not only check with the parent/caregiver if you can provide this, but first and foremost the nurse/doctor)
Do you have any tips I didn’t mention? Comment below and let me know!
Probably just like most of you reading this, I’m a sucker for child life-y apps! This month’s favorite find is an app called “Okee in Medical Imagining” created by the Royal Children’s Hospital all the way in Melbourne, Australia. This very cute & child friendly app gives it’s users an insiders view on different radiology tests and procedures – focusing on the 5 senses (what will i see? hear? feel? taste? smell?). The wording is very clear and concise, perfect for parents to read to their child or for kids to read on their own. Aside from the educational side, there are also fun games for the younger population that focuses on things like holding still, taking deep breaths, filling up with “glow ink” (contrast), finding broken bones on an x-ray, decorating your own CT machine, giving finding sea stars inside a jellyfish with an ultrasound, venturing in the MRI submarine, and even games for nuclear medicine and fluoroscopy!
For more information about the app visit: http://www.rch.org.au/okee/
Staying safe… in summer!
As many of you may know, the Frozen theme is here to stay. & what better way to promote summer safety than with everyone’s favorite snowman… Olaf! Our summer bulletin board is eye catching & very informative.
Oh! and I’d like to give a HUGE shout out to my volunteers that freehanded that Olaf drawing! Aren’t they incredible?!
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to conference this year. Luckily, thanks to social media, I’m able to take a peek at all the fun going on a this year’s Child Life Conference by searching #CLCConf15 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Make sure & follow along! & while you’re at it, follow me too!
The other day I had a patient (10yo) come into the ER with her mother and younger sister (6yo) via ambulance for a laceration. The two girls were doing backflips into the pool and well, one of those backflips didn’t end so well. I went into the room and the patient seemed to be coping very well. I provided a procedural teaching for the patient, sibling, and mother, answered her questions, and developed a coping strategy (counting to 10 and taking deep breaths). I also set up the girls with a movie and some coloring sheets to pass the time before the procedure started. When the time came, I was ready to be present for the procedure but noticed that mom was helping her daughter cope very well and that the person that really needed support was the little sister! She was sitting on a chair in the corner covering her ears and shutting her eyes as tightly as she could (the doctor was still setting up her supplies). I asked if it would be alright if little sister and I waited outside and both mom and little sister agreed.
She and I sat at a nearby table outside of sister’s room and made her a Get Well card. It was at this time that little sister started to explain to me how scary it was when her sister hit her head at the pool, how scary the ambulance ride was because they were going really fast, and how she’s scared about what they’re doing to her sister. I addressed all of these fears with little sister, all the while validating her feelings and helping her cope with the scary Sunday she was experiencing. I gave her the opportunity to tell me her side of the story of what happened at the pool. I was able to teach her a little bit about the ambulance and how they help get people to the hospital quickly and safely. And, I did my procedure teaching again, more slowly, and made sure she understood and felt comfortable with the steps. I was even able to show her my Mermaid ( http://adventuresinchildlife.com/2014/07/14/iv-sutures-prep-doll/ ) so that she could see & feel what the sutures would feel like afterwards. In the end she was more relaxed, understanding, and most importantly confident & comfortable to walk back into her sister’s room when the procedure was over.
It’s clear that in this scenario little sister needed support from her Child Life Specialist! It’s easy to develop a “tunnel vision” when working with patients and addressing their needs and concerns but it’s important to always remember to be alert and aware of family members and how they’re coping, too!