03-01-2012 (Dayton, OH) -
March is national Child Life month. During this time, we focus on the importance of a child’s ability to cope and heal after dealing with stressful and traumatic experiences that are magnified due to illness and hospitalization.
“For children, health care related experiences such as hospitalization can lead to feelings of fear, confusion and isolation,” says Karen Mueller, child life manager at Dayton Children’s. According to the Child Life Council this can “inhibit their natural development and have negative effects on their physical and emotional health.”
Dayton Children's has play areas designed and equipped to provide opportunities for physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills development. The Child Life specialists also use two newer pieces of equipment to ensure top-notch care for their patients; the iPad and the Sensory Rover.
Apple’s iPad is used to help visually explain medical procedures to patients and families as well as offer entertainment to ease pre-surgery nerves. The Sensory Rover Distraction Unit diverts the patient’s attention from medical worries to a hands-on light show that makes hospital rooms feel more like amusement parks.
Both of these additions to Dayton Children’s technologies are meant to calm children and parents’ medical fears. However, the iPad does more than just inform. Patients are able to play games, watch TV shows or movies, listen to music and read books. Additionally, teenage patients benefit too by being able to check their social media sites to stay in touch with friends or play games.
“The iPad is very useful in this situation because the patient is engaged in an activity with the iPad which draws their attention and focus away from the staff setting up for the procedure,” says Kristy Rowe, child life specialist at Dayton Children’s. “Also, it’s so much easier than carrying around a tool box full of charts, pictures, CDs or books.”
While the iPad offers a variety pack of traditional movie, television and video game entertainment, the Sensory Rover Distraction Unit takes kids from the hospital bed to a virtual funhouse unlike anything they’ve seen before. It has a bubble tube with plastic fish that swim up and down, long fiber optic strands that are flexible and change colors, mirrors to reflect the light and colors, a projector that projects a circular lava lamp type image onto the wall or ceiling and a stereo to play music. The Sensory Rover Distraction Unit helps take children’s minds off of their medical issues as they become captivated by all of the lights.
Along with the newer technologies the Child Life department also implements many other opportunities for kids. With an innate need to feel secure, comforted and accepted, Dayton Children’s offers the following services to help ease the stress of hospitalization for children:
- Therapeutic play activities
- Support and diversion during medical procedures at the hospital
- Special events and holiday celebrations for hospitalized children and their families
- Laptops with wireless internet may be used in activity room or at bedside
- Paw Prints (pet therapy program)
- Children's Clown Crew (clown visitation program)
While Dayton Children’s is dedicated to staying up to date on the newest tools for patients and their families, it’s important to remember that these technologies alone do not provide children with the care and support they need during hard times. The child life specialists at Dayton Children’s are committed to easing the stress and trauma a child may experience during their stay.
What is the role of child life specialists?
With bachelor’s degrees in child development, child life specialists are trained to focus on the developmental needs of children. They help children cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury, disability and hospitalization. With the help of families and pediatricians, they:
- Provide support and distraction during medical procedures
- Offer opportunities for play and expressive activities designed encourage normal development and add a sense of fun in spite of challenging circumstances
- Introduce coping strategies to help reduce anxiety
- Prepare children for medical procedures or treatment using language that children can easily understand
If you think you and your child would benefit from child life services, please contact your pediatrician or health care provider for more information.
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