Fun for EVERYONE

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I believe it’s important for every CCLS working in the hospital environment be knowledgeable on how to meet the unique needs of kids with developmental disabilities and their families. Often times, developmental disabilities are associated with chronic health conditions resulting in some sort of medical intervention(s) during their lifetime. That being said, these kiddo’s are often a top priority for me when I check my census each morning. So, how do I help these patients? Lots of ways!

  1. Play! Here’s a tactile stimulation activity I set up for one of my patients. Even though some kids are non-verbal, they still have likes and dislikes even when it comes to play. Ask mom/dad/caregiver for any preferences the patient may have. If it’s just you and the patient, figure it out! Talk to them,  laugh with them, play with them, see how they react when you help them engage in the different activities. The patient I took this activity to LOVED the feathers but she absolutely did NOT like the slime – haha!  IMG_6052.JPG
  2. Volunteers! Just like their typically developing peers, kids with special needs get bored too! Especially spending long hours in the hospital setting away from their routines. Don’t be afraid to have your volunteers visit these patients. Introduce your volunteer to the patient and model some appropriate play opportunities. Often times when I have patients that are admitted without family members at the bedside, I create an “about me” board as if written by the patient along with toys/activities I know the patient will enjoy. The “about me” boards are bright, handwritten, and easy to spot by any volunteer or staff that goes into the patient’s room. I write something along the lines of:
    • Hello Friend! My name is ______ and I am ____-years-old. Thank you for stopping by my room to play with me! Some of my favorite things to do are: listen to friends read to me, listen to the radio, squeeze play-doh in my hand, hold toys in my hand, and just have fun. There is a basket by the window where you will find some of my favorite toys and activities. If I need anything while we’re hanging out, my nurse’s phone number is on my whiteboard. I can’t wait to start having fun!Love, _________
      and Diane, my child life specialist (extension #)
  3. Resources! I’ve found many items that have proven to be very helpful for pediatric patients with special needs. Whether for support/distraction during a procedure, for relaxation and coping, or for recreational play, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorites. Click: http://a.co/2wbxj0E   What are some of your favorite resources to offer this population?

There are tons and tons and TONS of resources out there on working with kids with developmental disabilities in the hospital. Do your research!

Still feeling a little nervous about helping patients with special needs? There’s no need to be nervous! They are just like their typically developing peers – yes… really, they are! One of my favorite pages on Facebook will prove it to you. Click here:  https://www.facebook.com/specialbooksbyspecialkids/

 

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CLC2017

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It’s almost time again for the national Child Life Conference and this year it’s in Las Vegas, Nevada! To see the (super exciting) program for conference click here. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to be attending this year’s conference, but if I don’t, the Association of Child Life Professionals has a wonderful backup plan for those that can’t make it all the way to Vegas this May. After you register for the conference, for $50 more you can purchase the “All Access Pass”. With this pass, you are able to watch all of the sessions that were at the conference and receive professional development units (PDU’s) for them! I purchased the “All Access Pass” for last year’s conference (which I was able to attend in person) and I HIGHLY recommend it. You have 1 year before the sessions expire and you can watch them all on your own time at your own speed. Now if we can just get them to mail us our complimentary tote bags and SWAG from all of the exhibitors we’ll be all set!

Whether you’re planning on attending or not, here are some conference tips:

  • Students: If you’re financially able to go to conference, GO!!!! I cannot stress this enough. I truly wish someone had told me when I was a student to attend one of these conferences. They’re incredible and you’ll leave ready to take on the child life world! Plus, not only is it a great place to network, and learn, it’s also something you can add to your resume that will prove to potential practicum/internship coordinators that you are truly interested in the field of child life.
  • Looking for a new job? Go to the conference! As I mentioned above this is a great place to network and there are even boards where you can post up your resume for potential interviews!
  • For those who cannot attend this year, try and do the all access pass! This is the option I’m leaning towards and yes, it’s not as fun as actually going to the conference, but the sessions this year really are phenomenal. Look at the program and highlight the sessions you’d be interested in – if you highlighted your entire program in yellow like I did, get the all access pass!
  • For those of you that are going to the conference, HAVE FUN! I was in Las Vegas last year for vacation – in fact, that is where the photo above came from! I highly recommend the Beatles love cirque du Soleil show – I laughed, cried, and fell in love again with the Beatles – 100% worth it. I also highly recommend checking out red rock canyon, which is about an hour outside of Vegas. They have tours and breathtaking views – do your research and get your desert fix.
  • Hurry! Prices for the conference will rise on April 1st, 2017! Register ASAP! 

 

Child Life Students

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  • The university I am attending/will be attending does not have a Child Life program – what do I do? 
    • One of the many wonderful things about the child life profession is that you do not need to major specifically in child life to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). The university I attended for my undergrad did not have a child life specific major either – I majored in Family and Child Sciences and Spanish. Instead pick a major that relates to child life (i.e., child development, psychology, etc.).
      • “Applicants must have completed a total of 10 college – or university-level courses in child life or a related department/subject including a minimum of one child life course (defined below) taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). This is the form on which the CCLS instructor verifies that the child life-specific curriculum has been taught.” http://www.childlife.org/certification
  • Which classes specifically should I be taking in college that will count towards my eligibility assessment? 
    • This is a question I get asked VERY often. For such specific information, I always urge my readers to contact someone at the Association for Child Life Professionals (ACLP) so that they can give you the most precise answer. Email: certification@childlife.org  However, I can tell you that you need 10 college level courses that relate to Child Life including at least one course taught by a certified child life specialist. If your university does not offer a child life major or child life track, then they probably won’t have this course and you will need to take it elsewhere. I took mine as an online course from the University of New Hampshire. For more information on the 10 courses, click here: http://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/exam/cl-course-verification-form—final.pdf?sfvrsn=12
  • What is the “eligibility assessment”?
    • The eligibility assessment is basically the gate between all of the education and clinical work you have completed and sitting to take the child life certification exam. It’s great to begin the process of adding courses to your eligibility assessment form as soon as possible to make sure you’re on the right track. Once you have your Bachelor’s degree, 10 courses (1 of which was taught by a CCLS), and your internship completed, then you can submit your eligibility assessment. If approved, you may then register to take the certification exam. If not approved, then you will need to go back, fulfill the requirements and resubmit. For more information on the eligibility assessment process, click here: http://www.childlife.org/docs/default-source/certification/eligibility-assessment-process-pdf.pdf
  • Should I go to grad school right after I finish my Bachelor’s degree or should I begin my practicum/internship? 
    • This is another question that I often get asked which I cannot answer. Everyone’s adventure in child life is different. Personally, I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, then did my practicum, then my internship, then became certified, and a year into my career as a CCLS, I began my Master’s degree. This wasn’t the right path or the wrong path – it was just my path and what worked best for me at the time. For specific questions regarding your path, e-mail the ACLP – certification@childlife.org 
  • Do you need a Master’s degree to become a CCLS? 
  • Do you have any tips or suggestions on how I can stand out in the Child Life world? 
  • Why, yes! I do! In fact, I wrote all my tips on this post: https://adventuresinchildlife.com/2015/11/07/how-to-stand-out-in-the-child-life-world/
  • Do you have any advice on how to study for the child life exam? 
  • This is another frequent question I receive which I have also written about here and here.

 

Favorite Find

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I am so excited to have signed up for a 3-day kids yoga teacher training which is coming to Miami next month. Let me start off by saying I’m not a yoga teacher nor would I consider myself a yogi. My experience with yoga is nothing more than the occasional free class at the park or gym every now and then. Maybe a back bend or two at home when I’m in need of a good stretch, but nothing more.

About a week ago I stumbled upon Rainbow Kids Yoga – a company that focuses on giving its students the tools they need to teach yoga to children and families around the world. By glancing at their class schedule, it’s easy to see Rainbow Kids is everywhere – around the US, Europe, South America – everywhere!

How can this class help me as a child life specialist? These are just a few items on the agenda that I know I can use in my day-to-day work as a CCLS: Making yoga work for different age groups, breath and yogic breath for kids, yoga for children with additional needs, relaxation and guided imagery for children, meditation for different age groups

Aside from enhancing my clinical skills, I will also be able to teach children yoga on my free time if I desire as I will have “Registered Children Yoga Teacher (RCYT) status”.

*Cough* *Cough* To all those child life students looking for credentials to spice up their resume’s and stand out in a crowd of applications – look into this! 

Stay tuned for a part 2 of this post after I complete the training!

For an overview of the training click here: http://www.rainbowyogatraining.com/3-day-kids-yoga

You can see the class schedule & register for the upcoming class in Miami here: https://events.bizzabo.com/201924/agenda

 

Favorite Find of the Month

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I first learned about the child life profession when one of my child development professors my junior year of college very briefly mentioned it during one of his lectures. I jotted down “child life specialist” on the corner of my notebook and googled it when I got home. As soon as I looked it up, I knew this was it! I read every single word written on the entire child life council website but I still wanted more! I wanted to know what a typical day looked like for a CLS, I wanted to see pictures of their workspace, I wanted as much information as I could get to feel confident in my decision to pursue this career. I didn’t find what I was looking for that day so I started adventures in child life in hopes of providing others with what I was looking for at the start of my adventure. 

It’s no secret that becoming a certified child life specialist is a lot of work! And how can you be sure that you’re ready to do all that it takes to become a child life specialist when you’ve never even seen what the job entails first hand? I get a lot of e-mails from people interested in the field asking me how they can be sure child life is for them before they dive in. I often asked myself this question too during the early stages of my adventure. I realized that child life was for me by truly understanding what the job entailed and see the magic first hand during my time volunteering, my practicum, my internship, and even during as a professional. This brings me to my favorite find of the month:

 

John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida will be hosting a seminar for those interested in learning more about the child life profession. This seminar will include a panel discussion with child life staff, information about education options & certification requirements, a hospital tour, and exposure to therapeutic activities. There are two seminars left this year – one will take place on July 27th and the other on November 16th. Space is limited to 25 participants per seminar so make sure and register online ASAP!

To see the flyer for the event, click here https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/getmedia/792ad66a-178e-43b5-9116-8ccb6f983e9c/DayInTheLife

Let’s talk about camp!

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Back in March, I mentioned I was working at one of my hospital’s week long camps for patients with special healthcare needs. Now that I have some more free time having finished with school, I’m ready to let you all in on the magic I witnessed during my week at camp.

Our camp is a (free) week-long spring break camp for children that need a little extra help breathing from the use of a ventilator and their families. This includes children with tracheostomies – needing a ventilator, C-PAP, Bi-PAP, or oxygen to help them breathe. The campers come from all over the world to spend their spring break doing fun activities such as going to the beach, going to the pool, going on a yacht around  Biscayne bay, and having a dance party at the hard rock cafe!

This may sound nice to anyone, but this camp has a profound positive impact on the lives of its campers. Due to their medical condition(s), many of these campers are not able to do the activities they do at camp when they’re home. Our camp is fully staffed with volunteer nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, nurse practitioners, high school volunteers, nursing school volunteers, and a child life specialist (guess who!). It is thanks to so many medical professionals volunteering that these campers have the opportunity to bathe in the ocean or in a pool. For many of the campers, our camp is the only time of the year when they are submerged under water.

Our camp also gives the campers, their siblings, and their parents an opportunity to realize that other children go through similar medical experiences – just like them! With this tone of equality and normalization set within the first day of camp, it allows the campers and their families to relax, let their guard down, and just have fun!

Needless to say, I was blown away by the immensely positive impact this camp has on the lives of its campers, their families, and the dozens of volunteers that spend their spring break vacation dedicated to this organization.

To all child life students: this is a perfect example of how to stand out in the child life world. Not only would it look impressive on a resume, it will also help you with your personal professional development and medical knowledge. I’m not going to lie, I know that for my hospital’s camp there is a big commitment for those volunteering (in the end totaling 90+ hours). But, in my opinion, it’s worth it! There are camps like the one my hospital hosts all over the country and for various medical specialty populations. Had I known about this camp earlier on in my adventure in child life, I would have totally volunteered!

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Child Life Certification Exam – Update

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When I was studying for the Child Life Certification exam I had some printed literature on ethics in health care. This resource came in very handy as I recall having a couple of questions on the exam relating to this topic. After creating a post on how I studied for the child life certification exam , I received many e-mails asking about the health care ethics resource I used. After lots of researching, I have not been able to find a copy of the exact literature I personally studied for the exam (I used a set of handouts which were given to me by a child life supervisor along my adventure). However, while doing some researching for a grad school project,  I was able to find some information on health care ethics that match the context of what I studied for the exam! The following link provides simple definitions for words relating to health care ethics. If you are doing research independently for additional information on this subject, make sure you are familiar with health care ethics terminology. Try and search for scenario questions relating to the health care ethics as well. Happy studying!

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http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/medical-ethics-for-dummies-cheat-sheet.html

How to Stand Out in the Child Life World

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I often receive e-mails from Child Life students asking what I would recommend to make their application POP when up against others applying for a practicum/internship. This is a very valid question as you can imagine everyone your up against for the position also “loves kids” & is “very creative”. So, what are some things that you can add to your resume to stand out?

  • Experience with Kids
    We know you love kids (its a requirement for the job!), but show your program just how much. Hospitalized kids, kids in summer camps, babysitting, kids with special needs, tutoring, etc. By showing that you’ve worked with kids in a variety of settings you appear well rounded & it’s clear that you enjoy spending your time being around kids! Below are some of my favorite organizations that often are in need of volunteers:

  • Be Involved with the Child Life Council
    Becoming a member of the CLC will not only open a world of resources and information for you, but it will also show prospective hospitals that you’re serious about becoming a CCLS. Want to show them that you’re super serious about becoming a CCLS? Attend the Child Life Conference! Attending conference not only give you an opportunity to network, learn, and have fun in a new city, but it also looks very impressive on a resume. This shows interviewer that you’re passionate about Child Life, that you’re willing to learn about Child Life, and that you’ll be dedicated during your internship. Want to know more about what conference is like? Check out my post from the CLC conference 2014: https://adventuresinchildlife.com/2014/06/10/child-life-conference-recap/

  • Start a Blog
    Starting my blog was one of the best decisions I made in my journey to becoming a CCLS. Writing this blog gave me a reason to do research about the job, made me become aware of news and advancements happening in the field, network with other aspiring child life specialists, and now as a professional I use my blog as a portfolio of my work! Blogging about something shows that you’re truly interested in the topic and that you genuinely enjoy it. If you do decide to start a blog, let me know and I’ll give you a shout out! 🙂
  • Recognize your Special Talents
    There may be many special talents that you have that you don’t even consider special. Try and see things from a CCLS point of view and what they experience on a daily basis; do you have any skills that can relate?

    • Great at public speaking? As a CCLS you’re often times asked to provide in-services for members of the multidisciplinary team. It’s GREAT if you don’t faint at just the thought of speaking in front of a crowd.
    • Worked in retail during the dreadfully busy holiday season? Multitasking at a high-stress fast-paced job while having to maintain focus on customer service as well as the task at hand sounds a lot like Child Life to me!
    • Speak another language? Having grown up speaking Spanish myself, I never thought this would be something I’d mention during an interview – it’s no big deal, especially here in Miami where everyone speaks Spanish. This is an invaluable skill when working in healthcare (or anywhere, really!) and you should definitely brag about it.
    • Worked as a waitress/waiter or telemarketer during college? People skills are everything for Child Life. You need to know how to talk to children, yes, but you also need to know how to speak to their scared, angry, nervous, tearful parents.
  • Take Pictures
    It’s great to hear about how creative a candidate says she/he is, but it’s even better to see it! Take pictures (while abiding to HIPPA regulations) of the work you’ve done with children, medical play activities you’ve created, art work patient’s have made for you, etc. This will really make you stand out from other candidates.
  • Remember
    During your experiences volunteering or during your practicum, keep a journal of special moments that you witnessed the CCLS have with a child or that you yourself had with a child! Before an interview I always like to go over my personal journal where I’ve jotted down special moments I’ve had with patients and their families. This is a great “refresher” for when interviewers ask those great “Tell me about a time when you…” questions.

    • Trust me, if you don’t refresh on your experiences before an interview you’ll sit there trying to think of a special moment you had with a patient but all you’ll be able to think about is how much time you’ve been trying to think and how quiet everyone is & then you won’t even remember ever seeing a child before! Very awkward and a sure way to make you feel you “failed” the interview but it happens to the best of us!
    • If keeping a journal isn’t your thing, then when preparing for an interview make sure and just take some time to recall on those experiences & jot a few down. This way they’re fresh in your memory & you can think without eyes staring at you.
  • Research
    Now this point I’m only adding because I am 4 courses away from getting my masters degree so research has become my middle name. I now enjoy reading research articles for fun! (who am I?)  – All jokes aside, you really do learn a lot from reading research articles. Search articles about Child Life, pediatrics, distraction, siblings of hospitalized children, children’s perceptions of death, etc. Having this knowledge in your back pocket will really blow your interviewers away when you reply to a question with “Well, I actually read a research article about that which suggested…”
  • School
    If you’re still in school, tailor your classes as much as possible to Child Life (for those of you like me, whose university does not have a Child Life major). Take classes like medical terminology, children with special needs, a survey of developmental disabilities, death and dying, psychology, ethics, hospital management, etc. Different universities offer a wide range of courses so when picking classes always keep an eye out for those course descriptions that relate to Child Life and/or the hospital setting in general. My favorite elective was “childhood around the world”!
  • Be Creative
    Being creative is something all child life specialists claim to be but no two are the same. Show your creativity when applying for your position whether it’s decorating your application folder with washi tape or including an extra letter of recommendation from a child you know. After sorting through mountains of manila envelope applications, finding creativity in one will definitely set you apart. DISCLAIMER: don’t get too carried away with creativity; you are still applying for a professional role so shoving confetti into your application might be too much. Ask a trusted friend or parent for advice if you’re not sure! 

& my adventure continues…

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      Today is the first day of school for many down here in Miami, so I figured today is a good day to announce to my followers that I’ve been accepted into grad school at Nova Southeastern University! The degree will be in Developmental Disabilities with a concentration in Child Life. This will be the first time that I’m working full time and going to school but luckily, the masters program is 100% online! I am so lucky to have been accepted into such an amazing program – I can’t wait to start!

If you’re interested in more information about the Developmental Disabilities masters program at Nova, click here: http://www.nova.edu/humanservices/devdisabilities/index.html 

How I studied for the certification exam

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When I finally signed up to take my certification exam, I quickly became overwhelmed with what/how I had to study. The Child Life Council has a list of suggested materials for you to review before the test – ( http://childlife.org/files/CandidateManual.pdf — page 15) – but it can definitely be overwhelming to be given a list of textbooks as suggested study material . Here is what/how I studied for the certification exam (and yes, I passed on my first try!)

I began studying exactly one month before the date of my exam. I’ve never studied for one thing for so long with such a broad study guide so I knew I was in for an adventure.

Speaking of adventures, here’s a little timeline of my child life adventure – so you know where my studying starting point is: I graduated from college in spring 2012, took my intro to child life class in fall 2012, did my practicum in spring 2013, finished my internship in fall 2013, began working in January 2014, and was now taking the certification exam in March 2014. I’ve been consistently engaged with Child Life for 2 years – that being said, my studying was based on all that I’ve experienced and learned during my consistent Child Life adventure so I felt confident skipping over some material & focusing more on others.

So, first thing’s first: textbooks.

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I’m a very thorough note taker so having studied two of these books for my intro to child life course and the other two during my internship, I already had a ton of material to go over. I went through all of my notes of each chapter of each book and rewrote things I felt would come up on the test.

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The readings for ethics and the one for volunteers I had (luckily) made photo copies of from a friend and I’m so happy that I did! There were absolutely questions relating to these two topics on the exam. If you don’t have a copy of these materials already, get them! It may seem like a subject that’s common sense but reading through these two materials helped me a lot with various questions on the test.

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Another tool that helped me a lot were these two little gems from the Child Life Council. The study guide has great test taking tips and practice exams with answers! And, “the official documents of the Child Life Council” is a good resource to have whether you’re taking the test or not because it is filled with important information about our profession.

As for things I did not do:
– use the “child life certification exam” flash cards. I am HUGE on using flash cards to study but there was just so much information on each of the cards and a lot of lists “8 reasons ___”5 ways that children ___”10 most common ___”. I think I got through about 10 before I pushed them aside. They just didn’t “go” with my studying style.
– review a child development textbook or a nursing textbook. I felt confident enough with these two subjects based on all of my experiences leading up to this exam to be able to skip over them.
– try to rush or obsess over a question. While taking the test, if a question was unclear or if I was having trouble picking an answer, I left it blank and went back to it at the end of the test (you have FOUR hours!) This was a great tip because with the practice exams I noticed I would get ahead of myself and try and answer the questions as quickly as possible making me misread what the actual question was asking. Pay attention to what the question is asking and don’t be fooled by additional information given to try and trick you! and always always go back and reread your answers after you’ve completed your exam. always.
– study the day before the exam. By this point, I had studied for a MONTH. If I didn’t know something by this point I wasn’t going to learn it the day before the exam. My brain needed a much needed relaxing day off before the big show.
– freak out the day of. Sure, it was nerve wrecking, but as soon as I say down at the computer I said to myself “I’ve been studying every day for a month and I’ve been living this for two years. It’s time to answer some questions about this topic that I love so much.”

…And just like that, a (scary) two months later, I found out I had passed! (March 2014 exams took way longer to reveal test scores for some reason – lucky me. I’ve been told that you normally find out whether you’ve passed or failed immediately after you submit your test.)

Best of luck to all of you child life-ers out there studying!!

*Update 9/13/15* I have realized that the two resources on volunteers and ethics have been difficult to find. The copies that I have were photocopied and given to me along my Child Life journey so I am not even sure of the title of the book to be able to search on Amazon. Also, I cannot post the copies of the documents online as that may violate copyright regulations. If you think there is something better that I can do to (legally) provide this information to all of my aspiring Child Life Specialists, please, e-mail me and let me know! dianemo.ccls@gmail.com