Fabulous Find Friday: Monkey in My Chair

When kids are in the hospital, they are forced to miss many days of school, sometimes even months. Although kids tend to complain about going to school, it is a part of their normal routine. When children are hospitalized, school is an important part of the normalization process. Doing weekly assignments, the children can maintain a schedule similar to their classmates and the homework also serves as a conversation starter for medical staff.

Although hospital teachers do a great job of bringing school into the hospital, they can’t bring the classroom experience and often that is what children miss the most. While their classmates are having fun together at recess or going on field trips, the patient is stuck in a hospital room. This is where Monkey in My Chair comes in. Monkey in My Chair is a program that sends a monkey to the child’s school to sit in their chair. This monkey serves to remind the members of the class that although their classmate is sick and missing school, they are still a part of the class. Teachers take pictures of what the monkey is up to at school and send them to the patient so that the patient can feel included in the class’s activities.

Visit this link to learn more about Monkey in My Chair; http://www.monkeyinmychair.org/program


Fabulous Find Friday: Got Transition

In one of my classes this past summer, we talked about transitioning pediatric patients to adult care facilities. This transition requires the involvement of the pediatric care team, the adult care team and also the family. Got Transition offers a variety of resources to both health care professionals and also the youth and their families.

As Child Life Specialists, we are trained to assess developmental levels and provide developmentally appropriate education and support. This means that we are well equipped to support families during their transition to adult care. I encourage you all to explore Got Transition to learn more about the transition and resources and support that you can offer these families.

Fabulous Find Friday: Playmakers

For those of you in the New England area, I’m sure you know of the Life is Good clothing company. For those of you that have not heard of Life is Good, they are a clothing company that is focused on sharing optimism and giving back to the community. One of the ways that they give back is through their Playmaker Initiative.

Child Life Specialists are Playmakers! Life is Good defines a playmaker as “someone who provides the power of optimism to children who desperately need it.” Check out their site to learn more about becoming a playmaker; http://content.lifeisgood.com/kidsfoundation/what-we-do/become-a-playmaker/



Fabulous Find Friday: CPS Certification

I want to start by saying that while I have not completed this training yet, I have heard good things and it is on my list of future certifications that I would like to get. Today’s Fabulous Find Friday is National Child Passenger Safety Certification.

CPS certification is a training focused on teaching parents and professionals how to safely install and use a child’s car seat. With the CPS training, you will learn how to install seats, provide community presentations and safety check already installed car seats.

As Child Life Specialists, this is a helpful training to attend. We often are in a position where we work with parents and children who are driving in car. And many times, parents have gotten new car seats for their child to use on the way home from the hospital, so what better support to offer than to help the parent install the child’s car seat?

Fabulous Find Friday: Sibling Support Project

I came across The Sibling Support Project while researching for a paper on supporting siblings of kids with special needs. The Sibling Support Project is a national program “dedicated to the life-long and ever-changing concerns of millions of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns.” This organization presents workshops for siblings, facilitates online groups for siblings and publishes books for siblings. The books include Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up with a Brother or Sister with Special Needs and The Sibling Slam Book: What It’s Really Like To Have a Brother or Sister with Special Needs. 

Visit their website to learn more about starting your own Sibshop; https://www.siblingsupport.org/about-sibshops/want-to-start-a-sibshop.



Fabulous Find Friday: STAR Institute

The STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder is based in Colorado but their website offers research and resources for people everywhere.

STAR’s website offers educationresearch and a variety of resources for professionals and families who want to learn more about SPD. As Child Life Specialists, we often encounter kids in the hospital with Sensory Processing Disorder. Especially with all the varying stimuli that are present in the hospital, it’s important for professionals to understand SPD and learn how to best support their patients. The STAR Institute is a great place to get started.

Fabulous Find Friday: The Oscar Litwak Foundation

The goal of The Oscar Litwak Foundation is to “list the spirits of hospitalized children.” They do this through mobile playrooms. Not all hospitals have playrooms and often the playrooms they do have accessible aren’t available to every patient. Mobile playrooms means that more children have the opportunity to play and do arts and crafts while they are in the hospital.

To learn more about requesting a mobile playroom or to make a donation, visit their website at http://www.oscarlitwakfoundation.com/mobile-playroom


Fabulous Find Friday: Digging Deep Journal

Digging Deep is a journal for seriously ill children, in particular for teens. Adolescents in the hospital struggle to be heard and struggle to cope with all the changes that are happening. While all ages need support to help them cope in the hospital environment, there are not a lot of resources available specifically for teens. I received a Digging Deep Journal at conference this year and I think it’s a great tool for teens. Writing therapy is well established as a way to increase positive coping. To learn more about the benefits of writing therapy, visit this article: Can Writing Therapy Help Troubled Teens?

The journal is available online and also in a hard copy.  Visit this page to read the journal online: http://read.uberflip.com/i/403921-dd-2014-short/0?m4=

I would also encourage you to check out their entire site as Digging Deep not only provides the journal, but they are also creating a video game and offer evidence based research on their site.

I’d love to hear from you about how you support teens in the hospital. Have you used Digging Deep? How else can you support positive coping in teens?

Fabulous Find Friday: EnCourage Kids Foundation

EnCourage Kids has been at the National Child Life Conference for the past couple years and I wanted to share this great group with you.

They provide a variety of programs but the goal with all these programs is the same, support the patient and their family. They offer support to patients and staff in the hospital, they provide bears for hospitalized children, donate tablets to hospitals (especially Child Life Programs), organize Escapes (events for families to participate in outside the hospital) and redecorate treatment rooms. To learn more about all they do, check out their list of programs.

If you are in the New York City area, I encourage you to volunteer and get involved with this group. Check out way to give here.

Slow to Warm

Some patients are harder to connect with. Often they have the slow to warm temperament. During my time volunteering at a children’s hospital, one of the patients on my list was like this. The patient was a 12 y.o female and she was alone in the hospital so staff asked if I could bring some activities to her room. I grabbed connect four and a sand art project. We had sand art kits that were a mandala where you could remove the paper covering each section and add the sand. Below is a picture of these sand art kits, available from Oriental Trading.


When I went into this patient’s room and introduced myself, she responded very quietly. I could tell that she was shy. I showed her the sand art, but she didn’t make any motion to take it. I was always taught to let the kids do the project instead of doing it for them, but this particular patient didn’t seem to want to do the project. So I showed her how we remove the smaller piece of paper and then asked what color sand she would like to use. After she chose the sand, I demonstrated how we pour it on the project and it will stick to the part where we removed the paper. I then asked her to choose which section we should remove paper from next and she selected a small area. I removed that paper and encouraged her to pour the sand of choice on the section. We continued in these baby steps until eventually the patient was doing the project herself.

As I was guiding the patient, my goal was for her to do the project alone. When I left, I wanted her to continue to work on it so she wouldn’t be bored. I knew that I couldn’t do the whole project with her, she needed to take control. But because she was slow to warm, I had to be patient while she grew comfortable with me and comfortable doing the project herself. By the time I left, we had also played connect four and she had even smiled. This experience reminded me the importance of patience. As Child Life Specialists, and as student volunteers, our role is to provide a safe place for patients to grow and explore. Because this patient knew I would encourage and support her, not criticize if she didn’t do the craft right, she became comfortable enough to chat with me and enjoyed our time together.