Child life specialists help kids and families cope with life’s challenges. Often times people think that we “just play all day” and not realize the therapeutic value to our work. They may see us in a playroom, blowing bubbles during a medical exam or bringing toys to a child’s room. We are there to provide normalcy, preparation, support and give kids the opportunity to have a voice and express themselves through a variety of modalities.
We are also there during the heavier times of loss and grief. We use legacy building interventions during the end of life stages, help families find the words to talk about death/dying to their children and provide bereavement support after a loss.
Today, I am excited to share a spotlight on a child life colleague, Austin Schlichtman. He took his child life skills one step further and wrote a children’s book about loss, entitled, Fred and Red Say Goodbye.
Long before Fred & Red Say Goodbye, I created the characters to help build rapport with patients. Some specialists have a really funny joke or story. I had Fred & Red. A former patient named the penguin “Fred” after a Social Worker when she couldn’t think of another name. The balloon was much easier to name for her.
Throughout the years working with patients and families I would draw Fred & Red as a greeting on their whiteboards or sliding glass doors as my “Hello”. From time to time patients would add to Fred & Red, by giving them a home or friends, and almost always Fred & Red stuck around through their inpatient treatment. This became abundantly apparent to me one day as I was wrapping up a legacy building activity with a patient. As I left the patient’s room for the last time, molds in hand, there was Fred & Red still drawn on the patient’s sliding glass door. It was at the moment I realized eventually even Fred & Red have to say “Goodbye”.
Soon after I began creating “Fred & Red Say Goodbye” as a story to help patients and family grieve. I knew from my experiences that no loss is ever the same and often one loss is felt differently by each individual. For that reason I wanted to create a story that is easy to relate to and simple enough for children to understand. “Fred & Red Say Goodbye” is a touching story about the emotions associated with the loss of a loved one. The story follows Fred as he begins to process the news his beloved Red is sick and unable to be cured.
About the Author:
Austin Schlichtman has been a Child Life Specialist in the Pacific Northwest for over 5 years. He has spent the majority of his professional career working with the Adolescent Young Adult cancer population. In his free time Austin enjoys creating art, exploring nature while attempting to keep up with his Australia Shepherd, and drinking lots of coffee.
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Good Luck, winner will be chosen 1/23/16