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Child Life Month: Surprise Feature via The Starlight Foundation!

18 Mar

In honor of “Child Life Month,” The Starlight Foundation, which supports Child Life Specialists as they develop holistic programing and positive coping modalities for children and families under stress during pediatric hospitalizations has chosen to feature and acknowledge respective therapists from across the country. Click here for my feature! Thank you so much Starlight Foundation NYC! … Your unwavering support of happy, healthy children is amazing!

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“Jerry the Bear” – Fun Teaching Tool for Kids with Type 1 Diabetes

4 Aug

As a Certified Child Life Specialist, teaching children about bodily functions and diagnosis are key to normalizing their health experience and increasing compliance. In the medical world, “compliance” is a term used to describe the level to which a patient is following through with the recommended form of medical treatment. For any child, incorporating a new routine can be difficult … tie in a new routine with the need to take potentially life saving medication in a timely manner and you can imagine how daunting the prospect can become.

Below is a fun new teaching tool I recently discovered by the name of “Jerry the Bear.” This bear is especially tailored to help address the questions and concerns both families and little ones living with Juvenile Diabetes may have. I love that this teaching bear was created by young people, for young children … giving them a cuddly health-conscious friend to serve as a guide through the early stages of diagnosis.

Enjoy and let me know what you think!

The “Color Blind” Myth: Have You Had “The Talk” with Your Child Yet?

16 Jul

In the wake of heightened awareness and conversation regarding race in our country as of late, I thought perhaps to use this platform to quickly discuss racism and stereotyping through the lens of child development. Despite some of our best efforts to shield our kids, did you know children begin to formulate ideas and stereotypes about race as early as 5 years old! Taken aback? So was I when I first encountered this phenomena. Around 2004, I was working in the Child Development Laboratories at the University of Connecticut as a work-study student while obtaining my degree in Family Studies. I was placed in the infant / toddler room caring for children whose ages ranged from birth to 4 years. One fall day, as we prepped the older kiddos to play outside on the playscape, I knelt beside a pretty caucasian girl as I helped to adjust her coat and put on her gloves. We excitedly talked about all of the fun things we would see once we were outside. We discussed the blue sky, the green grass, the changing color of the leaves … her attention then turned to the colors on her coat, hat, and shoes. All colors that she readily identified.

As a reply, I praised her knowledge of the colors and thoughtlessly added “yes, and now we are putting on your gloves! What color are they?” … Her reply? “They’re black …. black like you.” She then looked me directly in my eyes after her statement and waited, looking to me, the adult, for my response. Now, while my dark brown completion is, on its face, very different from the jet black gloves I had just placed on her hands, I knew what she was referring to. Admittedly, I was still a young student learning about child development theory, so I more than a bit shocked. I mean, what does a 3-year-old know about race anyway? I thought. Aren’t young children supposed to be “color blind?” Apparently not. During the seconds I took to answer her, I realized the weight of this moment. My response, either positive or negative, would be a lesson for her on the connotations of race and whether it was a good thing (or not) to acknowledge someones differences. Ultimately, I responded with a smile and replied, “Yes, I am black. We all have special colors on our skin that might make us look a little different on the outside, but inside, we have so many things that make us the same.” Not bad for an answer on the fly, huh LOL. In the end, there was nothing wrong with her statement, I felt. I was a black person. She had simply, in her youthful honestly, chosen that moment to point it out. She then returned my smiled, satisfied with my answer, running outside to play while I followed behind, deep in thought.

As highlighted in the CNN study below, both the explicit and implicit messages we send to our children about race, not only shape their thinking and interactions with their peers, but it can also have a large impact on the type of adult they become.

 

After watching this CNN special, the take away message I hope is translated to parents wishing to nurture well-rounded, culturally competent children, would be to address the elephant in the room and begin talking with your children about racial differences head on. You may be surprised at what they are already thinking. Children are sensory learners, taking in cues from their environment through the five senses and various social interactions. If we say verbally “all are created equal,” but subconsciously tense up and clutch our purses or consistently refer to “them” or “those people” with a frown / negative tone when someone of a different race approaches, what message are we really sending to our children? As one child alluded to in the video, how can he bring a friend of a different race home to play if his parents have made little to no effort to engage others of a different skin color? The message that has been translated to that child unfortunately, is that something must be wrong with embracing diversity, especially if my family doesn’t practice it. Positive parental modeling and actively correcting negative messages as soon as they appear is key to combating both the overt and covert facets of stereotyping and race. By simply saying everyone is the same or pretending ones color does not exist, not only are we ignoring clear differences that any child can see with their own eyes, but we are also hindering the chances of having a truly honest discussion about the history of race in this country. How can our children learn, if we are too afraid to admit physical differences still exist, let alone racism?

Thankfully, while fully discussing racial issues still seems to be a taboo of sorts, there are plenty examples of children and families “getting it right.” I came across a great video posted on my Facebook timeline this evening of children of all ages talking about their initial reactions to the now controversial Cheerios commercial which aired recently.

 

Clearly, an open, honest conversation about diversity is happening within these homes. Not only are these kids confident in discussing racial differences, but it is embraced as a positive thing! Ultimately, a follower on twitter accurately stated, not addressing race or racism is like not addressing or acknowledging a cancer … It’s there (and possibly growing) whether you choose to recognize it or not. Let’s tackle it together! : ])

Child Life, the Robin to a Doctor’s Batman

14 Jul

photo copy 2Last week, I had a really cute conversation with a 9 year old male patient during my morning assessment rounds. He had been admitted for a few days, but feeling quite well. As you can imagine, he was very bored. It was during my morning check-in with him that a really fun, “lightbulb moment” happened. The following is a synopsis of our conversation:

Child – “So what is a Child Life Specialist (my job) anyways…”

Me –  “Well, we’re kind of like the right hand helpers to doctors.”

Child – “Sooooo,”   *thinks*   you’re kinda like their side-kick?

 Me – “In a way, yeah. If the doctor comes to check-in on you & they realize they might need to do something scary, like give you a new medicine, use machines to check how your body is feeling, or use needles … they might ask me to come in 1st to help you get ready so it’s not as scary anymore.

 Child – *thinks some more* … “Soooo, you’re like the Robin to the doctor’s Batman then?” .. *smiles brightly*

Me – “Exactly” *returns smile*

When working with school-age children, especially in the medical setting, it’s important to keep your language simple and concrete. For this child, Batman and Robin were a familiar team working together to keep the inhabitants of Gotham City safe from those who meant to hurt or cause pain. After taking a few seconds to reflect, I saw his line of thinking. As a Child Life Specialist, we are charged to advocate and even protect children from as many of the stressors related to the medical environment as possible. We work alongside other medical clinicians, trying our best to keep fear provoking experiences at bay. In the end, the correlation between the interrelated roles of both superheroes and medical staff made sense to this child and ultimately, it helped to transform what could have been a somewhat difficult explanation into a simple and very cool conversation. Salute to me fellow Child Life Specialists, superheroes changing the lives of children one interaction at a time!
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Lending a Helping Hand to Families in Need

30 May

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Looking for a quick and easy way to give back? Please consider donating today! Donation to support the families of Hale House.

Deadline: Saturday, June 29th

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Words to live by ..

5 Apr

“Don’t waste your talent …” ~ Sunny, from “A Bronx Tale”

One of my favorite personal mottos … from one of my favorite movies ever. A mom leisurely stopped by my office today. After a few laughs, she we went on to talk about the advocacy work she does with Autistic children and families in the academic setting, specifically working to help parents obtain the correct IEP for their child. She said to me

.. that is my gift, fighting for others. I didn’t go to school for it .. don’t have any degrees .. but I know, it’s a gift God gave to me and I’m gonna use it! We all have special gifts, and honey, patience and working with kids? .. Now that’s yours!

I laugh because while it isn’t the 1st time I’ve heard I have a knack for working with kids, it is the 1st time that someone has called my level of patience a gift .. LOL! .. I personally feel I’m still working on that aspect of myself. I guess sometimes, we may not always recognize the gifts we possess … sometimes it takes a kind heart to point it out : ])

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Monday Morning Surprises: My Hospital-wide Child Life Feature

1 Apr

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Evening everyone!

Quick update. So I come into work today after a long Easter weekend with a typical case of “the Mondays.”  I finally make my way to my office and begin to check emails when I discover the media department for my hospital has featured me in their staff recognition project! .. *gasps!!*  .. A hospital-wide email had gone out featuring both my work and growing Child Life program .. How awesome is that? .. Working with children and families to close ongoing health disparities within urban communities remains my ultimate goal. The use of  holistic health interventions remains my passion. It really feels great to be recognized for what you do.

Yay for surprises … especially on a monday! I’m so appreciative!

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Happy Child Life Month!

24 Mar

Happy Child Life Month!

Celebrating my fellow Child Life Specialists for all of the fun, unique, creative, therapeutic, educational work we do with children and families in sometimes scary medical settings.

Keep up the awesome work! I’m proud of all of you : ]) For more information about the profession Child Life, feel free to click on the Child Life card in this celebration post or “The profession” tab at the top of this blog page.

~ Angela B.

Hurray for Donations!!

8 Mar

Building a brand new one person Child Life program is no easy feat, especially when your program is starting from the absolute basics and just everything is grant / donation funded However, awesome donations from hardworking, selfless organizations like “The Pinwheel Project” make things SO much easier! This new doctor kit will be a great addition to my play therapy / teddy bear clinic stash!

Thank you Sandee & Janice, Founders of “The Pinwheel Project,” for sending two boxes filled with pure joy! The children and I definitely appreciate it … The work you do is amazing! If you are reading this and are interested in making donations to your local children’s hospital or pediatric doctor’s office, plastic / wipe-able toys are usually the best choice as it’s easy to clean between usage. The simplest things can bring a smile to a hospitalized child’s face .. Happy Child Life month everyone! : ])

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My New Love Affair – Disney’s “Doc McStuffins”

18 Feb

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Not long ago, Disney released a new medical show geared toward pre-schoolers by the name of Doc McStuffins. While I may be late in my discovery, I can’t tell you all how much I absolutely LOVE this show .. and I am not alone. Recently, the New York Times published an op-ed piece highlighting the many facets of Doc McStuffins and discussed the  growing support for the show. On a personal note, I absolutely love the fact that Disney has decided to go against “tradition” and create a main character, a doctor, which can embody so much power in our society, as a young girl of color. In response to watching the show for the 1st time, having an 8 year old child within the article exclaim, “wow mommy … she’s brown!”  should at least indicate that positive characters such as these are not as common in a post-racial / Obama era as we would think and are still sorely needed. On a related note, 131 African-American physicians world-wide submitted their photos this past Spring in the creation of the “We Are Doc McStuffins” photo collage with the caption: “We are trailblazers.  We are women of color. We are physicians. We ARE role-models.  We are Doc McStuffins all grown up!” … Simply wonderful.

Racial identification within the media aside, I also love the fact that Doc McStuffins introduces children of all backgrounds to the idea of imagination and more importantly, medical play. Child Life Specialists such as myself often utilize medical play with stuffed animals (commonly known as “playing doctor”) with pre-school / early school aged children when discussing medical treatment. Medical play allows children the freedom to explore, ask questions, and practice (ultimately mastering) many of the routine medical treatments they experience. Through Doc McStuffins, children not only have a fun, engaging way to learn and talk about doctor visits, but they also have a chance to self-identify with a smart positive character which reflects the growing diversification of America.