Social Emotional Support For Medical Issues Affecting Your Child/Family
Families facing illness, trauma, and complicated life situations can benefit from the support of a Certified Child Life Specialist. True Mind + Body offers medical social emotional support services that complement and enhance the care provided by pediatricians, primary care providers, mental health professionals, dentists and social workers. Before a variety of healthcare procedures, surgeries, or diagnostic tests, True Mind + Body can prepare your child with customized medical education and preparation in a safe environment.
With advanced preparation, children often experience reduced anxiety, improved cooperation, and increased comprehension of medical information. We can also provide coaching for children who have had previous difficult experiences and children with special needs. These services are provided by our Child Life Specialist, Lisa Morgan Mulvaney, M.Ed., CCLS.
What is a Child Life Specialist?
Child Life Specialists are child development experts who use play, preparation, and education as tools to support children with medical encounters.
"Child life specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events. Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, child life specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. Because they understand that a child’s wellbeing 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 caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress"
(Child Life Council, 2015).
The goal of child life support is to:
- help you and your child discover coping strategies
- reduce anxiety surrounding medical experiences
- help the child better understand the reasons for medical intervention
- enhance cooperation with the healthcare team
Lisa’s services may incorporate any or all of the following types of support:
1. Preparation for medical procedures, exams, or treatment
An upcoming medical or dental experience can be stressful and anxiety-provoking for families. With the use of play, demonstration, and developmentally appropriate teaching tools, procedures can be explained in simple and non-threatening language that is appropriate for the age of your child. Preparing children for what they will see, hear, and feel can help ease anxiety and eliminate the need to be restrained and/or sedated. Coping strategies will be practiced and concernswill be addressed. Examples of common situations where preparation or support can be beneficial:
- Dental Exams/procedures, EKG, Echocardiogram Blood draws & IV insertion
- MRI & CT scans
- X-rays & Fluoroscopy
- Upcoming surgery (inpatient or outpatient)
- Cast placement or removal
- Suture or staple removal
- VCUG, Barium enema, or other invasive procedures
- PICC line placement, dressing changes, and removal
- Port-a-cath placement & access
- EEG studies
- Sleep study
- Orthotics or prosthetic fittings
- New medical equipment or hardware
- Wound care
- Teeth cleaning
- Cavity repair
- Dental procedures requiring anesthesia administration
2. Developing coping tools and strategies for taking and administering medication or treatment regimens
By developing individualized plans, fears can be addressed and treatments can be incorporated into regular routines. Through medical play with real medical supplies a child can get familiar, with a new routine or procedure lowering the anxiety and stress levels for all involved.
Goals of this type of intervention include:
- helping children to understand the regimen
- increasing coping and compliance.
- Oral medications
- Insulin, growth hormone shots, other injections
- Nebulizer & respiratory treatments
- G-tube useHome dialysis routines
3. Minimizing anxiety and stress around blood draws or immunizations
Children can develop a fear of needles and shots at a very young age. Working with parent and child to develop strategies and give the child some choice and control can make blood draws and immunizations less traumatic. It has been proven that encouraging and promoting positive healthcare experiences with regular well-child visits will lower anxieties and ease future visits.
4. Medical play and education to help support children whose parent(s) or family member has a medical condition
Providing age appropriate explanations and information to parent/child to support the whole family, address fears, and help develop coping skills that can aid in positive and strength based coping.
5. Customized, age-appropriate educational workshops for classmates and school staff (at a child’s school)
A school visit can help eliminate common fears and misconceptions of classmates and staff, and encourage an environment of support for a child who is dealing with a stressful situation. Lisa has customized and led dozens of school visits to educate classrooms in an age-appropriate and interactive way, about an illness, injury, or medical device. These visits have helped alleviate both the stress associated with re-entering daily routines, and the burden of communicating and fielding questions from other children. School visits can also put teachers and classmates at ease and make it a more comfortable environment for your child.
(All names have been changed to protect client confidentiality)
My 7 year old son, Jack, has a thyroid condition and has to have his blood drawn regularly. After two blood draws that required several grown adults holding him down while he screamed and cried, I sought out Lisa. Lisa determined that Jack was afraid of the pain of a blood test, what he hated more was the lack of control he felt in the process. She helped us create a “poke plan,” where my son got to make choices about what would happen when he went in for the blood draw (which arm, how he would sit, what kind of tourniquet, etc.). I couldn’t believe it, but using the poke plan, he got through the next blood draw without a single tear. I was the one who almost cried – of relief!
Lisa also helped us tremendously when Danny, age 6, had to have an MRI without sedation. This required him lying absolutely still for 45 minutes while the machine made loud scary noises -- a task that seemed impossible. Lisa gave us great strategies to prepare. Instead of just showing up for the procedure and hoping for the best, which is frankly what I would have done without her, Lisa advised me on how to talk Danny through the procedure in advance. She suggested videos to prepare him for what the machine would look and sound like. And she helped him come up with a plan for the procedure and the reward he’d get at the end. Miraculously it worked. We are very indebted to Lisa.
I highly endorse Lisa Mulvaney to assist you and your child with any medical support services to ease the tension before, during or after any procedures your child may have. My daughter had to get her tonsils and adenoids removed at 8. She was very scared of the process. Lisa came to my rescue with a video of what would happen and had someone check in with us in the hospital to give us some additional loving care. They brought Sarah a blanket she still keeps with her in her room! Lisa's caring demeanor and calm nature were just what we needed. When she came into the room before the procedure and assured Sarah that everything would be okay you could see her brows instantly relax. To have a connection to someone in the community she trusts was instrumental in the procedure running smoothly for Sarah.
My son, Ben (age 7), had a few fainting spells we wanted to make sure weren't related to something neurological. He underwent an Electroencephalogram Procedure at Lurie Children's Hospital this year. He was nervous and wanted to know what to expect. I asked Lisa for her help. Ben had several questions for Lisa which she answered with care and shared a video talking us through the process. This resulted in Ben having a very calm demeanor the day of the test. Lisa followed up with us after the procedure to make sure everything went smoothly and that my children were okay. She is an unbelievably caring and loving woman.
Research has shown that….
- Children & adolescents who are prepared for medical procedures experience less fear and anxiety, and will have better long term adjustment to medical challenges.
- Children & adolescents who engage in therapeutic play with a trained professional exhibit less emotional distress, increased cooperation, and fewer negative physiological responses.
- Child Life interventions can increase cooperation and help to reduce procedural and post procedural pain.
- Providing support for family members enhances psycho-social outcomes for young patients. A parent or caregiver’s behavior and anxiety levels are strongly correlated with how a child will respond to hospitalization.
- Children & adolescents that are provided age appropriate and honest information regarding illness and hospitalization are more likely to have healthier coping and adjustment.
About Lisa Morgan Mulvaney, M.Ed, CCLS:
Lisa is a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS). She graduated from Erikson Institute with a Master’s of Education in Child Development and earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Northwestern University. Lisa has worked extensively with children from infancy through adolescence, and their families, in the pediatric healthcare environment. She provided Child Life Services at University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital for 12 years and is currently part of the Family Services team at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.