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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!

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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.

Medication – Quick tips & Advice for Parents

7 Nov

For many caregivers, the thought of using medical strength medications (often called meds) on children can be somewhat nerve-wracking. Question such as: “WHAT were those pills called again?” .. “HOW much did the nurse say she was planning to give my child?” .. “Is this medication REALLY necessary?” or  ”What if my child just doesn’t want to take it?” are just some of the common questions parents often ask. Below are a few quick tips that can take the pressure off of stressful medicine related situations.

Bring comfort items from home: These items can be life savers in a tense situation, especially when a child is feeling scared about a new hospital environment or upcoming test/procedure. Through my work as a Child Life Therapist, I’ve found that a comforted child soothed by a familiar security or play item, may require less anti-anxiety/or calming medicine during a
hospital stay or prior to a procedure.

Involvement: For older school-aged children and adolescents, getting them involved in their care through honest conversations and decision making (when possible) can be a great way to have them “buy into” and take ownership of their treatment. This is also helpful for a child who is refusing to take their medication.

Talk it Out: Ask medical staff to take a moment and explain to your child (depending on age) the medicine’s “job,” how it will work in their bodies, why its necessary, and how long will it be have to be taken. This is a great way to again, get children involved. They are more likely to cooperate with medicine taking if they have some information, as opposed to simply forcing it in their mouths or making them hold still for an IV because “I said so.” Also, by participating in the conversation, caregivers have the opportunity to also ask questions while getting a better sense of what their child understands as well.

Preparation: For some tests or procedures, depending on the age of the child, with enough preparation (such as medical play therapy) and parental support in the room, some children are able to remain calm enough where medications such as anesthesia (medicine used to cause children to sleep during procedures) are not necessary at all. Check in with your doctor, nurse, or Child Life Therapist to see if perhaps this is the case for your child.

Overall, while completely avoiding medication during a hospital stay can be very difficult, if not impossible, these four tips can help give you and your child choices and begin certain discussions with your medical team about medications.

*original image from (google images)

“A Teddy Bear’s Work”

7 Nov

A great way to ease the fears of children who are often anxious about doctor visits is the use of “Medical Play.” Child Life Therapist’s such as myself, believe that through play, children learn and experience the world around them. With this in mind, we often use medical play to teach children about the medical environment in a fun, non-threatening way. Through this sort of unique imaginative play, Child Life Therapists help children address: fears / misconceptions about the hospital setting, questions about medical equipment, the different roles of medical staff, or upcoming tests. Children are able to gain control as they assume the role of doctor and practice on a “patient” (often a stuffed animal) some of the very same routine procedures their own doctor may perform on them. As these sessions involve medical concepts and may raise difficult emotional responses from children and they work through their concerns. All play therapy / medical play session should be conducted by a trained (licenced or certified) professional.

Overall, when children are able to rehearse various aspects of the medical environment , they are more likely to feel in control and are able cope better than children with little to no preparation education. Doctor visits do NOT have to be stressful moments filled with screams. With a little prep-work and lots of emotional support from caregivers, even the littlest patient can head home with less tears.

For additional information regarding medical play or to discuss if medical play therapy might be a helpful option for your child, please feel free to reach me via the “Contact” tab above.