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Hats Off to Child Life Professionals Worldwide

baby resting on father

March is Child Life Month, a time for raising awareness of the psycho-social needs of pediatric patients and their families and celebrating the child life professionals who support those needs. Illnesses and injuries are always frightening. Diagnostic testing and treatments are too. That’s when the presence of a child life professional makes all the difference.

Educated in child development and how illness and injury impact children, child life specialists offer evidence-based, developmentally appropriate support. By providing information, procedural preparation, distraction, and therapeutic play, child life specialists help children cope with the uncertainties and fear that accompany being in hospital. Children experience less distress and are better able to manage their feelings as a result.

Child life specialists advocate practices that minimize distress. They encourage parental presence with guidance, comfort positions, and distraction during procedures. Comfort positions provide both physical and emotional comfort. Remaining calm is easier when a child is physically comfortable and emotionally supported. Procedures go more smoothly, children experience less pain, and what began as a frightening experience becomes easier for everyone to deal with.

Recently our micro-premie granddaughter benefitted from a medical staff aware of comfort positions. Experiencing a problem requiring readmission to NICU, she entered through the emergency department. During admission, she lay contently against her father’s chest. Once in an exam room, staff suggested he lie down on the bed with her on his chest – the perfect comfort position for her exam and initial treatment. Transport maintained that position on the trip to NICU. Parents and child alike were comforted by the compassionate care provided. An unexpected, frightening experience became manageable.   

Our family salutes child life professionals worldwide. Your efforts have transformed attitudes and practices for the benefit of children and their families, and we’re grateful.

PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play

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Child Life Mommy Shani Thornton

In honor of Child Life Month, PlayopolisToys invited four child life specialists pursuing their passion in nontraditional ways to share their stories. We’re beginning with Shani Thornton, MS, CCLS, who relates how she came to her profession and has adapted her practice to balance two passions: child life and mommyhood.

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When you find your passion in life, you will do anything to nourish it.

I stumbled across the child life profession when I was working as a recreation therapist assistant at a children’s convalescent hospital in San Diego. I loved my job, but had an overwhelming feeling that there was something more that I was suppose to do. I began my research, took on additional tasks at work and interviewed my colleagues about their medical positions. Nothing was standing out to me, until I heard about child life. That was it! It resonated deeply within me, and I was on a mission to become a Certified Child Life Specialist.

Fast-forward a few years later and I had reached my goal by providing child life services within a hospital setting. I loved my job, but I also fell in love with something else, my newborn son.

So, how can I balance these two passions of mine?

Thinking outside the box I developed a child life and parenting website/blog called ChildLifeMommy.com. It provided me an outlet to share resources on a large platform.

Just as you advance yourself in a work place, I began to do the same in my setting. I set new career goals and strengthened my skills by filling gaps in service.

child life mommy logoMy first project was creating a children’s preparation book about a wellness visit, including vaccinations and a blood test. There was nothing available in the market that used social story photographs and had the language of a child life specialist. It’s Time For Your Checkup: What to Expect When Going to a Doctor Visit was developed and made available on Amazon in paperback and digital format. It was quickly an added resource to many websites, including Autism Speaks and the Child Life Council.

I also took on an adjunct teaching position for the Graduate Child Life Program at Bank Street College of Education. My co-teacher and I changed the face-to-face therapeutic play course to the program’s new online format. Using creativity and our knowledge of social media and blogging, we are able to connect and scaffold our students across the country.

As I have found the rhythm in balancing parenting full-time and child life, I was able to take on my largest professional goal thus far, private practice. Providing in-home child life services to families struggling with life’s challenges has rooted me back to the hospital experience of patient work. Engaging with children, supporting parents, and providing therapeutic interventions is what really fills my child life cup.

There is a large gap in service with supporting programs and families in the community, and child life specialists are beginning to step outside hospital walls and apply our skills in various areas. I believe the future of the child life profession lies in expanding both community-based settings and globally.

Grab a favorite beverage and settle in at ChildLifeMommy.com. The resources for both child life professionals and parents are plentiful. The posts present information, insights, and personal experiences in a conversational tone. When she writes about her life, she writes from her heart, sharing her feelings openly and honestly, showing us that feelings require acceptance. Bookmark Child Life Mommy.com. Get to know Shani by reading My Life. And follow her blog. Connect through social media at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I promise you’ll find your time well spent.

 PlayopolisToys – for the diverse needs of the citizens of play