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Child Life: Building an Even Better Play Therapy Program

“Children connect to play naturally, so Child Life incorporates it into medical treatment, making patients and their families more comfortable and making the jobs of doctors and nurses easier,” says Courtney Moreland, a Child Life Specialist from the United States. “For example, something as simple as being able to blow bubbles with a simple bubble maker while having blood drawn makes the procedure less stressful for the child and parents and allows doctors to do their job easier, improving everyone’s experience.”

Currently, AHC has three Play Therapists who set up play centres in waiting areas. They engage with children in multiple ways and are instrumental in reducing anxiety and stress for children and parents.

The visibly damaged, darkened sections of our clinical roof must be replaced.

Photo Credit:
Kayla Mansell, B.A. Human Development
Student – Child Life Specialist, M.S.

Courtney spent a week with our team in February, learning more about what they do and laying the foundation to further develop AHC’s Play Therapy program. “At AHC, there are three Play Therapists, which is great, but they can’t do it all, especially if they’re mostly in the waiting rooms and not part of the child’s health care team. The goal is to establish a parallel process around the importance of play and to incorporate elements of Child Life into educational modules.”

Child Life is a field of study dedicated to working with children and families in hospitals and other settings to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. Child Life Specialists receive academic training at the bachelor or masters level and are an integral part of a child’s health care team at hospitals around the world. They provide children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management and coping strategies, and play and self-expression activities. They also provide information, support, and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.

The visibly damaged, darkened sections of our clinical roof must be replaced.

Photo Credit:
Kayla Mansell, B.A. Human Development
Student – Child Life Specialist, M.S.

“For example, say a 15-month-old is admitted to the hospital for two months. At that age, there is a lot of development – walking, talking, socializing, etc. If they are in a hospital bed, all of that is halted. But Child Life techniques can allow development to continue with activities tailored to the child’s medical condition, physical limitations, and needs.”

The roles of Child Life are to promote a positive hospital experience, provide a sense of normalcy, provide social and emotional support to patients and their families, provide teachings about medical diagnoses, help maintain a child’s developmental level, and collaborate with children, family, health care professionals as part of the child’s treatment team.

The visibly damaged, darkened sections of our clinical roof must be replaced.

Photo Credit:
Kayla Mansell, B.A. Human Development
Student – Child Life Specialist, M.S.

Research shows that an integrated Play Therapy and/or Child Life program leads to less anxiety and fear and better long-term adjustment to medical challenges, less emotional distress, increased cooperation, fewer negative physiological responses, and a reduction in caregivers’ anxiety.

Courtney will return to AHC later this year and there are plans for a series of Child Life students and specialists to visit and help implement these ideas. We are looking forward to making our Play Therapy program even stronger!

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