It’s a great day in NICU whenever we have a NICU graduate leaving our hospital! To commemorate this major milestone, I teamed up with volunteers to knit graduation caps. I then gave the graduation caps to our discharge nurse to give out for patients that have been admitted to our NICU for 30 days or more. These graduation caps have been a huge hit and I’ve heard parents say that it’s the best part of their whole hospital experience. See our beautiful graduation caps below modeled by my legacy preemie doll!
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/
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