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How Child Life Can Help
Our child life specialists help children and their families manage their healthcare journey from diagnosis to treatment and the transition back to school.
How Child Life Helps Kids at the Hospital
Undergoing a medical procedure or having surgery can be scary, especially for children. Child life specialists prepare children and teens for hospital visits, medical tests and procedures through step-by-step explanations, visual storytelling and hands-on demonstration using real medical tools and materials. Medical preparation can help reduce a child’s fears and teach them to use coping strategies effectively.
Child life specialists often accompany patients and families during medical exams and procedures to help manage distress, anxiety and pain. Procedural support may include coaching a child to use relaxation techniques, verbalizing the steps and sensations of the procedure to increase a child’s awareness and providing an alternative focus using distraction items (i.e. bubbles, lights, music).
- Child life specialists engage children in a variety of therapeutic play activities to promote emotional expression, support progress towards treatment goals and to reduce anxiety and fears related to hospitalization and medical procedures. Therapeutic play offers pediatric patients the opportunity to learn new skills and meet developmental milestones while they are at the hospital.
- Medical play is a hands-on therapeutic play experience that involves the use of real or pretend medical materials and equipment in order to familiarize a child with what they may see in the hospital environment. Medical play provides children and teens the opportunity to express their emotions and ask questions related to the healthcare experience while also providing them with a sense of control and confidence.
For all ages, a new diagnosis or hospitalization can be frightening and intimidating. Our team is available to provide emotional support for patients to help process emotions and experiences throughout each unit at Children’s National Hospital.
How Child Life Helps the Family
When a child has a serious illness or injury, it affects the entire family unit including siblings (brothers and sisters) of patients. Providing education and support for siblings is an important part of child life specialists’ role at Children’s National Hospital. Our team is available to provide siblings with education surrounding a patient’s illness or injury and to provide support through the coping process while patients are at the hospital.
Child life specialists can assist in educating parents and other caregivers about their child’s hospitalization and illness. We can provide group education with both parents and patients where everyone is learning about hospitalization in a way that meets their individual needs. We support parents to assist in patient coping and providing normalized development while their child is admitted.
How Child Life Helps Kids at Home
Returning to school after receiving a new diagnosis or being hospitalized for an extended admission can be a challenge. Child life specialists can help with the transition by providing a school visit to educate peers and classmates. Child life can bring the medical dolls and resources used in the hospital to help provide an age appropriate explanation and answer questions.