When a five year-old learning to ride a bike falls off, the first thing that happens is someone instinctively picks him up and gives him a hug, and then perhaps a Band-Aid and an ice cream. Pretty easy to understand the problem and find a way to fix it. But what to do when faced with the more complicated feelings and questions that accompany a serious illness? Child life specialists are professionally trained in child development to help children and their families cope with stressful, challenging life events, such as illness. By using therapeutic play, education, and creative age-appropriate activities that facilitate expression of thoughts and emotions, our child life specialists promote growth and development. This is vitally important in treating children with cancer and blood disorders since the way children manage the stress and trauma of illness differs greatly from the way adults do. The fear and uncertainty of a devastating diagnosis can result in negative effects on a child's physical and emotional health and well-being. Child specific techniques, such as using art therapy or showing a patient with a play doll how medicine will be administered through a port in his or her body, help patients heal more quickly and learn to cope better with pain, which means they often develop fewer lasting side effects.
“The Valerie Fund helps distract me from the “pokes” and tests with funny cartoons on TV or games played on an iPad. They let me make some decisions of my own like choosing my own Band Aid character. ”