Yoga + Child Life – Part I

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You may remember at the end of last year I enrolled in the Rainbow Kids Yoga teacher training ( see post here ).  Let me start off by saying I am by no means an expert Yogi! I enrolled in this course not to deepen my practice or ditch child life to become a yoga teacher but rather to use the theory of yoga in my day to day as a CCLS. Fast forward 7 months after the Rainbow Kids Yoga training: it’s worth it!

I use the skills I learned with Rainbow Kids Yoga almost on a daily basis with my patients. So, what did I learn and how am I applying it to child life? For starters, it’s important to realize that yoga is more than just poses and flexibility. In fact, I don’t use yoga poses at all with my patients. What I do use is deep breathing exercises, guided imagery, and mindfulness practices.

I have so much information and resources to share on this topic that I’ve decided to break up this post into 3 parts so stay tuned for more!

As a lover of free resources, I have set up a google drive where I’ve uploaded tons of freebies from teacherspayteachers.com on this subject. Click the link below to view:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B7up2fwr6___OXJ4MUlJRnNoNjg?usp=sharing

Part I:

Deep Breathing

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Any wise 7-year-old will be quick to tell you that breathing is important – we have to do it to stay alive! And while this is quite true, our breath also has a big impact on our mind and how we cope with experiences.  image-4722.jpgSee this picture example of how our breath changes as we become stressed. This is where yoga comes into action! By teaching children different breathing exercises during times of stress/anxiety, they will be able to slow their breathing thus helping them cope, remain calm, and feel a sense of control.

There are TONS of kids breathing exercises you can find with a quick google search. For example one of my favorites is Snake Breath – take a big breath in and as you exhale make a “Sssss” sound as long as you can. Another favorite of mine is Lion Breath – take a big breath in and as you exhale stick out your tongue and make sure to make your meanest lion roar face. Find inspiration online or make up your own! I made up Bubble Breath – inhale and pretend you’re blowing one really really big bubble as you exhale // inhale and pretend you’re blowing out millions of really little bubbles as you exhale. For some little ones the concept of “inhale” and “exhale” may not be appropriate so change up your terminology to something like “smell the flowers, blow the leaves” or “smell the birthday cake, blow out the candles”.

In an effort provide a visual for the patients and to help me remember so many different breathing techniques, I created a laminated breathing cards with different clip art depicting the type of breath.  Shout out to Gretchen Blackmer for the inspiration for these breathing cards http://www.everydaywarrioryoga.com/ 

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Another great tool to use to show patients the effects of breath is to use a  Hoberman Sphere.This is one of my favorite resources to help kids really understand how lungs open and close with each breath. Plus it’s an overall really cool toy and instant rapport builder in my opinion. I’ll guide my patients in doing the different breathing exercises with the Hoberman sphere so they can see the full effect.

Another great tool I’ve used to support my breathing exercises is the book “Breathe, Chill: A Handy Book of Games and Techniques Introduced Breathing, Meditation, and Relaxation to Kids and Teens” by Lisa Roberts. This book breaks down various types of breath and how/when/why to use them. After I purchased this book I read the testimonials on the back and saw one of them was written by a CCLS! Just goes to show how beneficial yoga practice can be in the field of Child Life. You can find this book here on Amazon. 51NfLPIAGjL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

I’ve had many kiddos that really enjoy doing these deep breathing practices before/during/after procedures. I even had a patient choose my breathing cards over my iPad for distraction during her first IV! Not only do these skills help them cope with the present situation, but they walk away with a new coping technique in their pocket for future use & that’s what child life is all about!

 

 

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Asthma Education

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Asthma is a pretty common diagnosis, not just on the respiratory unit where I work, but everywhere! I had asthma as a kid and I know lots of other kids around me had it too. It was something pretty “normal” to me growing up and I never really thought twice about what it was, why I had it, and I loved that it came with the perk of not having to run the mile in P.E. Even while working in the ER, a chief complaint of asthma was not a high priority compared to everything else coming into the department  (unless the patient had a very bad asthma attack).

Seeing more and more asthmatics come onto my unit now in the “winter” months down here in Miami, I began doing lots of research on different asthma education resources. I found tons of resources just by typing in “asthma education for children” in Google.

Here are just a few I found:

The list goes on and on and on, however, after a couple of asthma teachings using these resources, I felt like something was missing. I wanted to my patients to reach specific goals I had for them which were not always all covered by the resources I found.

My goals for my asthma lesson plan are:

  • What part of the body is affected by asthma (lungs)
  • How many lungs they have (you’ll be surprised how many older school aged kids have told me 1!)
  • What happens when you have an asthma attack (bronchial tubes become tighter)
  • What can cause an asthma attack (identifying triggers)
  • How can you help lungs/airways feel better if you have asthma (long-term medicine/quick relief medicine)
  • and what are the symptoms you might feel when you are in the green, yellow, or red zone (self-awareness)

I mixed some pages from various resources I found online and also created some pages myself to help me get my message across the way I feel is best for my patients. While creating my new asthma education packet, I still felt like I was missing an effective concrete example demonstrating the difference between healthy lungs and lungs experiencing an asthma attack. That’s when I created the activity below!

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  • While going over our asthma education packet, the patient and I cut out lungs from the packet (the best  printable version of lungs I found were from this website: http://learncreatelove.com/printable-lungs-craft/ ).
  • Then the patient and I will glue the lungs onto paper lunch bags. In an effort to save paper/materials, we make 1 lung with asthma and 1 lung without asthma vs 2 lungs with asthma and 2 lungs without asthma.
  • After we glue the lungs onto the paper bag, we tape a smoothie straw into one lung and a cocktail straw into the other lung. I have the patient then blow into the healthy lung and suck the air out a few times. Then I have the patient blow into the lung with asthma and such the air out a few times as well. This way, the patient can clearly experience the difference in breathing and how it is much more difficult to breathe during an asthma attack than when lungs are healthy. *Check with the patient’s nurse before doing this activity to make sure the patient is clinically stable enough to do breathing exercises. You wouldn’t want to exacerbate them!*
  • After this activity the patient and I then continue with the education packet (triggers, medicines, etc.)

There are TONS of resources on asthma out there – asthma books, asthma camps, asthma videos, asthma games…look on the child life forum too! As a reinforcer, I also created an asthma memory game to make patients more aware of common terminology usually associated with asthma (albuterol, pulmonologist, inhaler, spacer, etc.). I also encourage them to download (with their parent’s permission) an app called “Widzy pets” which centers around asthma education in a fun way.

What are some ways you help your patients learn about asthma?

Favorite Find of the Month

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My favorite find of the month are these coloring books that feature kids with disabilities! Sue Nuenke and her son, Christopher Harmon, have worked together to create fun coloring books and stickers that will help kids “see characters that look like them too”. I am a huge fan of any and all resources that I can provide for children with disabilities – much more so those resources that help normalize their environment. These coloring pages are available on the website (link below) to print for free!


For more information on Popping Wheelies visit: http://themighty.com/2015/08/1this-mom-created-coloring-books-that-feature-kids-with-disabilities/

Favorite Find of the Month

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At the end of this month I will be spending the weekend volunteering at Camp Erin – a bereavement camp for children. This past weekend we had a pre-camp pizza party to meet all of the campers, their families, and help reduce some of that pre-camp anxiety that usually builds in the weeks before sleep-away camp. We had a lot of fun at our pizza party – we played games, got to know each other, had pizza (of course), and sang songs while the veteran volunteers spoke to the parents/caregivers about specifics about camp. When speaking to one of the 6-year-old girls in my group, she told me all about this Elmo video she watched that “explained about when people die and that it’s okay to cry”. This Elmo grief video rang a bell, but I decided to do some more research when I got home. Turns out, Sesame Street offers their resources for free to download online, in English and Spanish! This is such an incredible resource to know about when dealing with bereavement and grief with children. Thank you, chatty little 6-year-old!

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Camp Erin : https://www.moyerfoundation.org/programs/camperin.aspx

Elmo Grief Resources: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc/griefresources

Image Source: http://www.sesamestreet.org/muppets/elmo

Don’t forget the teens

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During my practicum I always struggled when interacting with teens. Being that I was 21 years old when I was doing my practicum, it seemed awkward for me to provide child life services to someone who was so close in age. During my internship I went out of my comfort zone and really made an effort to connect with my adolescent population. Thus began my new found love for providing child life services to teens (as much as I would for any other age.) Now that I’m working as a child life specialist, I’m always looking for ways to keep our teen population included when it comes to giveaways/things to do while in the ER because while yes, teens do love being on their phones, phones run out of battery and there is only so many times you can refresh your twitter newsfeed before you go crazy. Here’s a list of what I have (so far):

  • A variety of “teen movies” for them to choose from to watch in their rooms
  • Age appropriate board games (apples to apples, connect 4, uno, regular cards, etc)
  • An x-box on wheels with age appropriate games (need for speed, nba 2k13, etc)
  • And, my latest option to hand out: Mandala art!

Mandala art is supposed to be therapeutic to color if you’re coloring from the inside out {https://spiritualityhealth.com/articles/mandala-art-drawing-your-way-wholeness} . I hand out a few sheets and some coloring pencils to my teens who are interested and it’s been a hit! I’m so glad that I’m able to provide my teen population with things that they enjoy & are age appropriate.

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This website has lots of fun hospital-themed printables!

Source: http://www.daniellesplace.com/html/doctor-nurse-crafts.html#doctorbag

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I was able to find two options of these fun print outs that would be great for any medical play session! The first option is not free to print out, but there is a sample you can print to get a feel for what you can expect if you buy them. The second option is totally free to download after you make an account with the company you’re downloading it from. I’d say it’s worth it! They are very cool!

The second option of print outs are free and

Source:

Option 1: http://growingplay.blogspot.com/2012/04/pretend-play-box-doctor-hospital.html

Option 2: http://professorpoppins.blogspot.com/2013/03/doctor-pretend-play-kit.html