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!
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!
Taking medicine isn’t always easy – especially when it needs to be taken every day for an extended period of time. Non-compliance with taking medicine can also cause a great deal of stress for parents, especially when it’s the one thing keeping the patient from being discharged. One of my patients was having a hard time with this task so to make things a bit more tolerable, we decorated her medicine cups. This patient really wanted it to be grape flavor however we couldn’t give her that option for this particular medication. To try and fix her grape craving, we stuck with the grape theme for her medicine cups. The medicine is still unpleasant, but creating these cups & giving her choices made the whole process a little more tolerable. What are some ways you help patients be compliant with taking their meds?
I recently had a patient that was unable to speak after a surgical procedure. She was developmentally appropriate and had no prior history of hospitalization so all of this was new and very frustrating for her. Her nurses came to me asking for help because she was having a very hard time communicating with them.
Here’s what I knew: she enjoyed playing on the iPad but did not have the strength to hold it up to type, she didn’t have the fine motor skills she once had to be able to use a marker/paper to write, and she had no family at his bedside to speak for her. I began to think of what she can do rather than what she can’t…. that’s when my creativity light bulb lit up! I created a communication chart for her.
One thing that she could do is move her arm/hand around and point. That was perfect! I found a chart with a couple of key phrases and emotions on it via google images by searching “communication chart”. I also created an empty template for her and her nurses to include more personalized phrases. I put both sheets into a sheet protector with a piece of cardboard in between so that it was sturdy and ta-dah!
My patient and the medical team working with her loved this communication chart and it truly helped her have a voice again.
As any child life specialist knows, finding a doll with plastic hair is like finding a hidden gem! Due to infection control precautions, cloth dolls or dolls with hair (barbie) should not be used in between patients because they are not able to be properly cleaned/sanitized. I was so excited when I found this Aladdin for 2 reasons:
1. his plastic hair making him easy to clean and maintain
2. Aladdin is a boy making him more relatable and engaging for my boy patient’s
I placed a PICC line on him for now but who knows, maybe in the future, he’ll need an IV or help me demonstrate an OR prep or a breathing treatment. I am so excited to have him by my side!
You can find your own Aladdin doll on Amazon !
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!