How to Help During a Hospitalization

When we have a family member or friend hospitalized for a period of time we often wonder what we can do to help. We try to picture ourselves in their shoes and think about the amount of stress that they are under and how to help relieve it.

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My Experience with CPSE

Working as a child life specialist at a pediatric inpatient rehabilitation hospital, I became familiar with the variety of therapies offered to our patients. Occupational, speech, psychology and physical therapists worked with the children on improving specific goals. The staff worked really well together and communicated to both the patients and their families. I understood the importance of therapy and the terminology used. I tried to always have a high level of empathy and sensitivity towards our patient’s and the challenges that they faced. I also supported the families who were coping with their child’s hospitalization and all the additional stresses that come along with it.

Fast forward four years and I have now found myself as a parent trying to navigate my son’s way through receiving services from the Committee of Preschool Special Education. When his teachers brought their concern to my attention, I felt a huge sense of guilt. How could I have missed this? With my professional background and experience working in a rehab setting, I should have been more on top of it. I think I was hoping he would “out grow” it by the age of four, but that obviously didn’t happen.

I’m still in the beginning stages of this whole process. I have contacted the school that he would be attending in kindergarten and was connected with their liaison for parents and CPSE. I met with a therapist at that school who also confirmed his preschool teacher’s suggestion on receiving services.

I have filled out a dozen forms, gathered additional paperwork from his pediatrician and teachers and I have chosen an agency to do a formal evaluation on him. Whew! The hardest part was just reading some of the questions about your child, their behavior, temperament, what they can and can’t do. The questions were intense and heavy at times. I was now in the footsteps that my former patient’s parents had gone through. I felt a larger connection with them thinking, “Oh, I really get it now.”

The agency has done their evaluations and we are now waiting for our formal meeting with a lot of important people; some one from CPSE, the agency, school district, parent advocate and my husband and I.

Through all of this, I have felt nothing but support and sensitivity from the professionals we have been in contact with. They have made this much easier and less overwhelming. My friends who are also going through similar situations have also been a great support system.

I know that there are still gaps in service. What are those and how can we adjust them? I am curious to hear other parent’s and professional’s experiences in this area.

Syringe Painting

When it comes to taking medication the average child isn’t too inclined to take the dose. They may feel horrible, it taste awful, they have no control in the matter and it can lead them to feel an overwhelming sense of anxiety. I know as a mother how difficult this can be. My son used to freak out, cry and refuse to take the medicine that he needed.

There are coping strategies that I used to use with the pediatric patients that I worked with in the hospital. One of which is called syringe painting. Syringe painting is a great way to help children play and express themselves through art by using a medical tool. Children can manipulate the syringe and play with it in a non-threatening way. They are able to become more comfortable with it and then begin to gain a sense of control over it.

This is also a great tool not only for children who take medication orally, but for kids who have a chronic illness such as diabetes and are faced with insulin injections. It also works well for children who receive vaccines.

What you need:

  • Paint
  • Paper/Canvas
  • Syringes
  • Plastic Medication Cups or Paper Cups
  • Basin or large sheet under the paper to protect your table or floor


Be prepared that your child may want to do it over and over again. This is normal and actually a great sign that your child is gaining a sense of control and processing what he/she has experienced.

During the art session you can begin to have a discussion with your child in regards to taking the medicine.

  • Do they know why they have to take it?
  • Do they understand what part of their body it is helping?
  • Do they know the name of it?
  • Do they know that it’s normal to be upset over having to take it and that it’s not a punishment?

You can also begin to strategize and think of ideas on how to make it less challenging the next time they have to take it

For Oral Medication

  • Offer the child as many choices that can be fulfilled. Do they want to take it standing up or sitting down? Would they like a popsicle or a lollipop? Would they like to have a count down or just get it over with?
  • Lick a lollipop or popsicle before and after taking it. My son loves this idea and we make a fun game out of it by having him lick the popsicle until his tongue turns a different color and numbs/masks the taste of the medication.
  • If its possible and the child would like to do it, have them squirt the medicine in their mouth. You can practice with water before.

For Injections

  • Again offer the child as many choices as you can. Do they want to sit up or lie down? Do they want to watch or look away? Do they want a count down or just get it over with? Do they want to take a deep breath and pretend to blow out candles or scream as loud as they can? (I know some people don’t like the screaming but lets face it, injections don’t feel great. As a mom, I have no problem letting my son scream or cry. I encourage it, if that is what will help him get through it.)
  • Advocate for Emla numbing cream. You may need to get a prescription or ask your pediatrician to put it on at least twenty minutes before the injection.
  • Allow the child to pick out a character band-aid

Related Articles:

5 Tips to Help Your Child at the Doctor

3 Ways to Hold your Child for a Shot

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