We are continuing to celebrate child life month with another fantastic giveaway. Every child life specialist, parent and medical provider knows how important it is to help distract kids during medical procedures. So, we have teamed up withSpellbound Augmented Reality Therapy for this next giveaway.
Win a copy of Albert, The Confused Manatee, and watch as the storybook comes to life.
Choose one or more ways to enter:
1. Sign up for email notifications at Child Life Mommy and leave a comment below
2. Facebook: Follow Child Life Mommy, tag a friend and leave a comment on the post
3. Facebook: Follow Spellbound and leave a comment about the giveaway
Twenty years ago, when Peggy Schuster started work as a child life specialist at Providence Children’s Hospital (PCH) in El Paso, TX, the child life program had just launched. Within a few years, Ana Aburto joined Peggy on the team, and for sixteen years now they’ve been a dynamic child life duo helping patients and their families at PCH.
I talked with Peggy and Ana recently about some of their experiences in child life, from their favorite parts of working as a child life specialist to some of the most important aspects of their role. They also shared some of their remarkable stories from working with patients in the last year.
Ana told me that one thing she loves about child life is how there are new challenges every day. “The most exciting part of my job is finding new ways to help patients,” she tells me. “I come from an educational background, and at times it becomes a teaching challenge for me; how can I use my creativity and the resources that I have to help these kids reduce their anxiety?”
One of Peggy’s favorite aspects of her role is her responsibility to focus on the patient and advocate for their emotional needs, which can get lost in the busyness of the hospital. “Often, medical staff end up talking more to the parents than the child. Patients have told us ‘I feel invisible.’”
Child life specialists have to stay closely attuned to what their patients are thinking and feeling. Their powers of perception are crucial, and can help turn a potentially scary and traumatic procedure into a smooth procedure with no tears. When they recognize what a patient is experiencing, they can come up with solutions to help the patient better cope with the treatment they’re going through.
Peggy had a recent situation at PCH that required her to cut through the noise of a chaotic situation to bring peace to a young patient. “We were working with a little 4 year old girl and we couldn’t get her to sit still for a procedure. She was screaming and crying,” says Peggy. The doctor and the nurses were trying to calm the girl down, but everyone was talking at the same time and Peggy could see that it was overwhelming for her.
“I asked them if I could try something—so they all moved back and I took out the SpellBound cards and was talking to her,” Peggy tells me. “She started interacting with the cards and she calmed down.” Peggy told the girl that she needed the procedure, but told her to keep focusing on the cards. Using the SpellBound cards along with relaxation techniques, the patient stayed calm and the doctor was able to finish the procedure. “Everyone was surprised at the cards and their effect, and looking at me like ‘Gosh, what did you pull out of your pocket… a magic wand?’”
When that girl was leaving the procedure room, she looked up at Peggy and told her mom, “That’s my favorite person in the hospital.”
During our conversation Ana tells me about the first time she used SpellBound with a patient. “It was during an IV start with a 3 year old girl that had a lot of anxiety,” says Ana. “The anxiety was being fed to her through the parent that was with her; they were more anxious than she was.” When it came time to put in the IV, Ana pulled out the mouse Journey Card for the patient to use.
“What she did surprised me,” Ana tells me, “because she used it to communicate to the nurses that she was feeling something.” Every time the girl felt something during the procedure, she’d touch the mouse to make it squeak. Ana, using her child life perception powers, noticed her doing this and asked, “Are you letting the nurse know that you’re hurting?” The patient said, “Yes.”
Using the feedback from the patient, the nurses were able to get the IV started after a few minutes. When they were done, the little girl left the procedure room to return to her family, who was waiting outside for her. “She was excited; she wanted to show them how she had managed to get through the procedure using the card,” says Ana.
“I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to work on every child.’ It was an eye-opening experience for me.”
Given that it was her first time using SpellBound, Ana was surprised at how easy it was to use and how well it worked. “I’m not a very technical person. I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to work on every child.’ It was an eye-opening experience for me,” she tells me. And she points out that all the elements had to work together to make it a successful procedure. “It was a combination of the SpellBound technology, the observing, and the teamwork.”
As Peggy and Ana have practiced as child life specialists over the years, some of the methods and tools have changed; when they started, there were no iPads, and certainly no augmented reality cards for distraction. But the core of their role is still the same as it ever was. They’re still observing what patients are experiencing, advocating for them, creatively finding ways to meet their emotional needs, and helping them cope with the fear, uncertainty, and pain of treatment. Today, they just have some new tools to assist them.
Kids go through a lot when they’re getting medical treatment at the hospital. And child life specialists like Peggy and Ana are the heroes that help make it a little better.
We just took medical play to another level with Seedling’s Parker, Your Augmented Reality Bear. Child life specialists use medical play every day to prepare kids for procedures, help them process their experiences and just explore the materials in a non-threatening way.
We have also been adapting our coping techniques with the advancements in technology, by using tablets and virtual reality goggles to distract kids during painful procedures.
Parker is now helping us combine these two modalities together and enhance the therapeutic experience for young patients.
My kids and I had the opportunity to play with Parker and we loved him. Coming from a child life specialist’s perspective, I thought that the app’s games and activities were engaging for young kids (2-8 years old) and that the augmented reality was very unique.
There were only four medical play tools, a stethoscope, spoon, medicine tube and thermometer. I would have loved to have seen more, including a syringe or injection device. I also thought about infection control with the plush teddy bear and felt body outline. I know that many specialists use cloth patient puppets and follow hospital guidelines by using disinfecting wipes, so that could be an option for Parker. It may also be machine washed. The felt body outline could probably be coated with a laminate, to wipe down between uses.
More about Parker:
Seedling, the LA-based startup with a mission to reimagine play, has today unveiled Parker: the world’s first augmented reality (AR) teddy bear. Parker comes to life when used with an iPad or iPhone and the accompanying free Parker App, which allows kids to have an immersive experience through which they learn empathy, problem solving and open-ended play skills, all while developing digital literacy. Parker is immediately available exclusively at Apple.com and in Apple stores in select countries.
Parker is a classic teddy bear made extraordinary through the magic of Augmented Reality. Parker the bear is all plush and fluff —no batteries, no cameras, no Wi-Fi. Parker is just like the teddy bears we grew up with; soft, squeezable and perfect for pretend play. Add an iPhone or iPad and use the app to interact with Parker and the world of make believe comes to life.
Parker offers an engaging open-ended experience for children ages three and up. By using the app and your iPad or iPhone to interact with Parker and the enclosed tools, caregiving is transformed into an interactive experience. The more you play with and care for Parker, the more magical your world becomes as Parker’s Happiness FactorTM grows. Surprises and additional play features are revealed, including interactive games to play and puzzles to solve.