Child Life and Development
Child life specialists are experts in child development, who promote effective coping through play, preparation, education and self-expression activities. Health care experiences and treatments due to illness, injury or psychological trauma can be as unsettling and scary as the condition itself for children and teens.
Child life specialists provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children and adolescents facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to health care and hospitalization.
Understanding that a child’s well being depends on the support of the family, child life specialists provide information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members. They also play a vital role in educating providers, administrators and the general public about the needs of children and adolescents under stress. The American Academy of Pediatrics calls Child Life services an essential component of pediatric care.
In the early 1970s, Children of Bellevue established the Child Life Department at Bellevue Hospital – the second CLD in the country.
- Inpatient Pediatric Ward – Child Life professionals work in with hospitalized children and adolescents to prepare them for medical or
surgical procedures, facilitate positive coping strategies to manage pain and create an environment that duplicates the security and comfort of home as much as possible. Through the model of family-centered care, parents and other family members are encourage to take an active role their child’s care and are offered support and counseling. Medical students and child life interns are trained in child development and understanding the special needs of pediatric patients.
- Pediatric Emergency Services - Emergency Room doctors and nurses, concentrating on many patients and on the medical crisis at hand, often cannot spare the time to help children and teens cope emotionally with what is going on. Children of Bellevue’s Child life specialists provide preparation, psychological support and crisis intervention to children who need to cope with the stress and discomfort of emergency care. The specialists often act as a liaison and advocate between patients, families and health care providers to increase communication and cooperation during the urgent medical procedures that need to be performed.
- Specialty Clinics – In Bellevue’s outpatient clinics, child life specialists help children cope emotionally with pain and fear. Child life specialists provide preparation, and psychological support for children and their families receiving medical procedures in Hand Clinic and Dental Clinic. In addition to supporting children with procedures, specialists also help patients learn to cope and master chronic illnesses through individual and group activities in Diabetic and Cardiac Clinics.
- Ambulatory Surgery/Pre-Hospitalization – This program prepares children and their parents for a scheduled surgery. The child life specialist works with a variety of therapeutic mediums to help children and their parents overcome their fear and anxiety. Families are seen in a group playroom, giving the children opportunities to engage with medical play equipment and art materials so that they can express their emotions and concerns. This gives the child life specialists an opportunity to assess their understanding and coping strategies and provide appropriate guidance and support. This helps to reduce a child’s anxiety on the day of surgery.
- Play Screening – The pediatric clinic makes use of the patients waiting time. A playroom for children age 3 and up is provided every afternoon. Child life specialists support and expand children’s play as they participate in a variety of activities: games, blocks, pretend play and art. They make observations about the child’s development and if they have concerns discuss them with parents and the child’s pediatrician. Child life specialists provide support to parents as they navigate the New York City School System.
- The Early Learning Group is a weekly playgroup for parents and their pre-school aged children. The group provides children with a routine including free play, art, music and snack. The children internalize this routine which helps prepare them for school. While in the group, child life specialists offer support and guidance to parents regarding any concerns they may have with their child’s development or behavior. They engage in play and play therapy with the children.
- Adolescent Prenatal/Parenting – Children of Bellevue’s child life specialists were among the first in the US to recognize the special needs of urban teenage parents and they have created special programming for them. From the first pre-natal visit, the young expectant mothers meet an interdisciplinary team of staff, including pediatricians, child life, social work and nurses. Adolescent parents remain in the program until they are 19 or their baby is 6 months old. Our parenting groups are aimed at strengthening the parent-infant relationship and enhancing the child’s overall growth and development. The groups also support the teen mother as she adjusts to her role as a parent.
In 2009 Children of Bellevue spent $409,074 of its Child Life and Development programs.
Every child who comes to Bellevue hospital for medical purposes – over 16,000 children every year.
For information regarding internships and other opportunities in Child Life, please contact Gloria Mattera, Associate Director of Child Life – Pediatrics.