The Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Child Life Team strives to provide a therapeutic, comfortable and engaging environment while optimizing growth and development, decreasing anxiety and fostering positive coping skills for children and families. Through consultations and a wide range of interventions and programs, our child life specialists address the impact of illness and hospitalization on patients ranging in age from infancy to young adulthood and their families.

Facilitating personalized, developmentally appropriate, self-expressive and play interventions, the Child Life Team identifies children’s existing coping strategies, addresses misconceptions, and answers questions regarding diagnosis, treatment and care. By helping children and adolescents process potentially stressful experiences, the Child Life Team aims to build coping tools to benefit them throughout and beyond their medical journey. The Child Life Team plays a crucial role during many potentially challenging times including:

  • At the time of a diagnosis
  • Before, during, and after a procedure, test or surgery
  • When anxiety is present regarding a difficult experience with any element of illness
  • When a sibling of a patient needs help understanding the healthcare experience

The Child Life Team offers a wide range of services to patients and their families including:

  • Procedural Preparation: Works with patients and families to increase understanding of healthcare experiences by providing developmentally appropriate preparation for procedures and addressing questions, misconceptions and concerns to develop a coping strategy. Medical play is one way the Child Life Team can familiarize children with their treatment and provide a sense of mastery.
  • Procedural Support: Provides a wide range of interventions during procedures including relaxation techniques and diversion/redirection as well as post procedural reflection/processing.
  • Self-Expression Activities: Uses games, art, journaling, scrapbooking and more to promote the recognition, expression and validation of feelings while supporting each child’s unique coping style.
  • Play: Facilitates developmentally supportive and therapeutic play to promote socialization, normalization, choice, control and confidence.
  • Sibling and Family Support: Builds trusting, supportive relationships with members of the child’s family and support network to assist in their coping with the impact of the diagnosis.
  • Programming and Special Events: Organizes opportunities which aim to build community, inspire creativity, harness the imagination, and encourage a sense of adventure and possibility. For a list of our events, check out our Twitter and Facebook pages.

When our son was diagnosed with leukemia and our world was rocked to the core, child life services carried our family through those dark, terrifying weeks. They created a warm, safe haven where we could come to help our son heal. As a result, he has never associated clinic visits with pain or cancer treatment, instead he always gets excited for the weekly play dates with his family friends, the child life specialists.

Tarrah, mother of 3-year-old Caden, treated for leukemia