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!
- 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!
- 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 #)
- 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/
Another fun event my team and I hosted in honor of child life month was a teddy bear clinic. This event is usually a great hit with the patients and families.
We started off by giving each “doctor” their patients chart. Here we included some information on the “top 10 reasons to call your child life specialist” as well as information on the different stations at the event.
These are all of our “bear-y” sick patients. We contacted our marketing department and they had many bears with our hospital’s logo that they were happy to donate to us!
This first station is where our “doctors” would gown up and get ready to treat their patients. This was a very popular station and it was so adorable to see kids proudly walking around looking like doctors.
The next station was triage followed by the IV station. We had a CCLS at each of these stations helping guide the “doctors” as they cared for their patient. Here is where we were able to sneak in our education & address misconceptions.
Here’s a closer look at our triage station and IV station.
Finally, the patients were able to do an x-ray by dipping our demo bear into white paint and smudging it on black paper. This was a very fun and creative way to incorporate medical art into our teddy war clinic.
Some other activities we had at the clinic were a photo booth station with props and a table with markers, crayons, and construction paper for the “doctors” to write a get well soon card to a patient in the hospital. We also included band-aids and gauze at this station to continue to promote medical art. Needless to say our clinic was a big success and all of our teddy bears were cured. Thanks, doctors!
One of my younger patients was a little shy and nervous to be back in the hospital setting so we made a shield with tips to help him be brave. We had a lot of fun making this shield and of course, I learned so much more about him during the activity. I learned about his past hospital experiences, different ways he copes during procedures, and which procedures he has a difficult time with. He proudly hung up the shield on his bedroom wall and now had a visual reminder of his own tips on how to be brave.
His tips to himself were:
- Take medicine to help you feel better
- Look away
- If you get bored, call volunteers to come and play with you
- Count down
- If you don’t want to take your medicine, just take it fast and get it over with (this one was my personal favorite)
Recently I had a school-aged boy diagnosed with cystic fibrosis (CF) admitted to my unit for a “tune up”. He told me he was in the hospital because he had CF and when I asked him what CF was he said: “I don’t know what it is but I know that I have it…”. I asked him if he wanted to learn a little about what CF was and he agreed! Right away I went to grab a Huxi book, some crayons, and coincidentally I found a panda stuffed animal in our prize closet. We read through the book and talked a lot about mucus and the parts that it effects in a person’s (or panda’s) body with CF.
After we talked about mucus, then things got really fun… we made slime (aka, mucus)! There’s nothing school-aged boys love more than making gross, icky, gooey, slimy mucus. I wanted to make slime with him so that he could have a concrete example of how sticky and gooey mucus can be. While we were squishing the slime around in our hands he began to ask questions like “how do we get rid of mucus?”. I answered his question by asking him about things he does at home – breathing treatments, enzymes, wearing his vest, etc. We also talked about other ways he can help his body get rid of mucus like eating healthy and being active.
I am so glad I had the opportunity to teach my little patient about CF & that we both had so much fun!
It’s been almost 5 months that I’ve been working at my new job as an inpatient child life specialist. Having been an outpatient child life specialist for 2 years, I am loving the change. Some of the things I love the most about my new role is having ample time to build rapport with my patients, having time to provide more in depth diagnosis teachings, and my new favorite thing: engaging my patients in therapeutic activities! Therapeutic activities is something I’ve always tried to incorporate into my child life practice however due to the nature of the fast paced emergency room, I rarely got the chance to. Here is one activity I facilitated during my first couple of weeks in my new role.
At first, I was a bit nervous because I was not sure that I’d be able to know which one of my patients would really benefit from a therapeutic activity. However upon meeting one of my teenage patients who’s frequently hospitalized for extended periods of time due to her condition, it was clear to see this was the perfect opportunity. I presented the activity to my patient with the theme of “you can’t have rainbows without a little rain”. In the clouds, she wrote things that make her feel sad about having to be hospitalized and in the rainbow she wrote benefits of being treated at the hospital. This way she has a nice reminder of the “pro’s” of being in the hospital when she needs a pick-me-up.
She and I both had so much fun putting together her poster board and I was able to learn so much about her. As for the materials I used, I put together supplies last minute after coming up with the theme. In fact, all I had with me was a poster board and cloud cut outs! I had the patient choose between markers, crayons, paint, glitter, magazine cut outs, etc. and just followed her lead with how she wanted to create her art. Not too shabby for our first time, eh?!