Child Life Specialists are trained to help children and their families understand and manage challenging life events and stressful medical experiences. Because children process information from the world around them differently than adults, they have distinct needs for managing the effects of stress and trauma. Without assistance from a professional who understands their unique perspective, children of all ages may experience emotions such as fear, shame, confusion, anger and loneliness, which can inhibit their natural development, and have lasting negative effects on their wellbeing and future health-related choices.
Child Life Specialists have concentrated their studies, at the bachelor or master's degree level, in child development and in promoting effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families and encourage optimum development for children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to health care and hospitalization. The American Academy of Pediatrics affirms that Child Life is "…an essential component of quality health care," and, at Memorial Children's Hospital, Child Life Specialists work as integral members of the multidisciplinary team of nurses, physicians, social workers, dietitians, therapists, and others, to ensure that pediatric patients and their families receive "family-centered care" at the highest level of quality possible.
Services provided by Child Life Specialists may include:
- Advocating for the special needs of hospitalized infants, children, teens and their families
- Using developmentally appropriate play and activities as a way to help patients adjust to being hospitalized and understand the medical treatments, procedures and equipment needed for their care (read the Child Life Council Evidence-Based Practice Statement Summary.)
- Offering emotional support and suggestions for coping with fear, anxiety and being away from home or family
- Promoting development by helping children do things that are part of their normal routine
The Child Life program at Memorial Children's Hospital offers patients and their families special events throughout the week to help normalize the hospital environment and encourage activity similar to what patients would be experiencing if they were at home. Some of those special events include:
- HealthWorks! Kids' Museum, "Germ Busters," a program that teaches participants about good hand-washing and dental care practices, including fun activities, craft projects, and much, much more!
- Pet Therapy, a program that brings a specifically trained and certified dog to visit interested patients.
For more information about the Child Life Program at Memorial Children's Hospital, call 574-647-6334.