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.