News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: How can a Child Life Specialist help my family?

JCCHD | Fri, April 05, 2013 | [Autism Treatment][Healthcare][Q and A ]

Child Life Specialist

Child Life Specialists (CLS) are trained to support children and families during challenging or traumatic events. They work as a liaison between patients, family members, and the clinical team. A CLS promotes family-centered care by providing information to family members and advocating for the family’s needs.  One of the primary roles of a CLS is to ensure that patients and families have a positive visit and a better understanding of their medical or clinical experience. Here are a few of the ways they are able to help:

Preparing for the Visit
Child life specialists can create and utilize preparation materials such as social stories, which help prepare children for their medical visit. Parents can rehearse the social story prior to the visit, and even repeat the story after to explain the experience. Increasing a child’s understanding can help decrease anxiety and clarify misconceptions.
Prior to your visit, be sure to ask the facility if they provide tours or have a picture story online that you can show your child. Medical clinics can sometimes be scary, since they are filled with foreign smells and items, so meeting the staff and becoming comfortable in the environment will likely make the trip easier when it’s time for your appointments.

During your Visit
There are many ways your CLS can help you and your family during your visit, since he or she is trained to provide distraction and support during potentially challenging events. Through the use of medical play, the CLS can provide children with opportunities to express their fears and concerns. Medical play allows children to become familiar with items such as the tourniquet, syringes, gauze, or medical tape.

Transitional items can also be used to provide distraction and comfort during blood draws, exams, etc. Bringing in a “safe” item such as a toy or blanket can soothe a child and provide feelings of security. (But be sure that if the experience is traumatic, the item is used soon afterward in a positive setting to decrease the likelihood of a negative association.)

Child Life Specialists can also provide family support. Many times, parents may feel overwhelmed with medical terminology and treatment recommendations. The CLS can often help clarify information for parents, or serve as the family’s primary liaison, streamlining their concerns and questions to the appropriate clinician.  Offering support services such as sibling support and resources on parent support groups can help improve family relationships. During your visit, ask about services that may be offered. If you would like more information about our current sibling support groups, call our office at 512-732-8400. 

Follow-Up Care
Follow-up care can be extremely important in ensuring that the family is coping and that the patient is adjusting well. This is particularly important for outpatient settings.  Follow-up calls and appointments provide the family the opportunity to ask questions and express concerns, while also updating the clinical team on the patient’s status. The CLS can also help provide information on community resources, support services, and grant opportunities to aid in continued treatment and intervention.

The Child Life Specialist and You
Utilizing the services your Child Life Specialist offers can help you and your family through necessary medical experiences. Your CLS is there to ensure that the child and the family feel supported and are successful in implementing appropriate intervention plans.

For more information, our child life specialist is Jeanna Martinez, MS, CCLS and she can be emailed at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or contacted by phone at 512-732-8400.