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/

 

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/

Providing Support for Children with Special Needs

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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!

From Cruelty to Understanding: Trends in Special Education

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From Cruelty to Understanding: Trends in Special Education

One of my wonderful readers recently e-mailed me this infographic for me to post & spread the word about special education then & now. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart as my mother owns and operates her own group home for people with disabilities and my best friends brother has down syndrome – we are actually hosting a holiday party for him & his friends later this month! Understanding the needs for people with disabilities is a big part of child life & many other careers that focus on working with children. It’s great to see from this inforgraphic how far we’ve come and how important it is that we continue to move forward in being able to provide our special needs community with the best resources available.

Thanks for sharing, Lauren!
Source: http://www.special-education-degree.net/trends/

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Lately I’ve heard many people in the child life profession buzzing about this book — sounds like a must read!

 ”In Far from the Tree, Andrew Solomon tells the stories of parents who not only learn to deal with their exceptional children but also find profound meaning in doing so.” 

Source: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0743236718/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?ie=UTF8&psc=1&smid=ATVPDKIKX0DER