YONKERS, N.Y. -- The Elizabeth Seton Pediatric Center is celebrating Child Life Month.
Child Life staff at the center are engaging "medically complex residents in empowering play and sensory exploration to help them better manage health-related stressors," representatives said. The center employs three certified Child Life specialists on staff who are experts in child development.
"Children can develop fear and anxiety when they are in a health care or hospital-setting, but Child Life strategies like education, self-expression activities and developmentally appropriate play help to decrease these fears and promote positive coping strategies," representatives said. "Developmentally appropriate play can include activities that work to improve a child’s fine motor or gross motor skills, as well as their social skills. Activities can also focus on therapeutic release or be child-directed, which gives the child control of the play situation."
Representatives say medical play, in particular, is an example of therapeutic release.
“Medical play is crucial since a child’s first language is play,” said Mariel Maffetone, one of the Child Life specialists. “It helps us to identify, and then clarify, any misconceptions that a child may hold about a procedure or about their condition. Medical play has also been used to familiarize parents and even siblings with the medical equipment that a resident needs like tracheostomies or gastric feeding tubes."
Medical play also gives children the opportunity to play doctor or nurse with their Child Life specialist or even with a doll as a patient in a safe environment, representatives said.
“This can promote a sense of control in an environment that these children typically feel that they have little or no control over,” Maffetone said. “Many times our children and their families just need someone to take the time to allow them to manipulate the equipment and address their concerns at a pace they’re comfortable with.”