Tuesday, April 23, 2013

David Gets in Trouble

David Gets in Trouble, (by David Shannon) is a book about little David who always seems to be getting into trouble and makes excuses for his mistakes.  This book is a great book for kids who are constantly being told "NO" by others.  When a child is only told "no", he is unable to learn acceptable behavior.  While children must be corrected, they should also be given acceptable options to replace their unacceptable behavior so they can grow as individuals.

I recently used this book with a seven year old boy who became aggressive and defensive when corrected.  After reading the book through once, I asked the patient to think about appropriate alternatives for each of David's excuses as we read it again.  For example, when David says, "I couldn't help it", my patient chose to replace that phrase with, "I like to be silly".  This not only created open communication, but it allowed the patient to try some new responses in a non-threatening environment.  It wasn't personal since we were talking about David and not the patient.  At the end, I asked the patient if this book could help us in the hospital.  After some discussion, the patient decided he would like to try out some of these new responses with his parents and nurses (with the help of a sticker chart and a prize at completion...we'll see how that works).

At the end of the book, David says "I'm sorry.  I love you mom".  I wondered if this would be difficult for my patient because his family is not affectionate and this patient does not hear "I love you" often.  That was my own discomfort as this particular patient did not react to that part of the book at all.  It would, however, be important to consider before using with patients who may be lacking and seeking affection from their caregivers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brain Exercise

I am so excited to share my experience from the First Annual Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training held in Alexandria, VA.  It was a three day conference highlighting the various arts including:  play therapy, music therapy, art therapy, dance and movement therapy, and so many more.  It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from experts in the field and network with people from around the world. 

Friday I had the wonderful opportunity to learn how to better integrate the arts with play.  One of the most exciting topics for me was learning more about theraplay.  Marlo Winstead talked about her experiences with theraplay and showed some examples of her work with families who have adopted children.  IT. WAS. BRILLIANT.

Theraplay is defined by the insititute as, "a child and family therapy for building and enhancing attachment, self-esteem, trust in others, and joyful engagement. It is based on the natural patterns of playful, healthy interaction between parent and child and is personal, physical, and fun".  There are 4-day training sessions around the world to teach clinicians how to practice theraplay.  There is one in Ireland later this year.....anyone?!?!

Saturday I attended the session on (surprise surprise) Expressive Therapies in Medicine.  I, once again, was reminded how cool it is to work with kids in the hospital.  Diane Rode, the child life director, spoke about the amazing opportunties at Mount Sinai for children to be creative and express themselves in a hospital setting.  They have a creative writing specialist!!! HOW COOL IS THAT?!  Check out more about their program at www.mschildlife.org

Sunday morning, I attended a class entitled, "Imagery and More:  Self-Management Techniques for Physical Symptoms".  This class was taught by Karen Clark-Schock, PsyD, ATR-BC.  I learned more about mindfulness and taking control of physical symptoms through expression. 


We were asked to draw a picture of a symptom and then draw the opposite.  I think it is clear that by Sunday I was feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.  These two show my mind when I let anxiety take over and then when I choose to be calm and allow myself to be creative.  This activity would be great to do in the hospital to better understand a child's experience of his or her pain.  So often we use the pain scale, but it can be more effective to allow the child to create.  It would help to not only see the pain, but to also see if the child has hope for the pain to go away.

The afternoon session was entitled, "Grief Counseling using the Creative Arts".  This session pushed me to be more creative when working with grieving children.  We were given experiential learning opportunties in art, music, and sandtray, which is always a powerful learning opportunity for me. 

During the art experiential, we were asked to create an unfair death and how it impacts life.  This exercise gives insight to the view of death for the individual and the opportunity to talk about death in a non-threatening way.

Mark your calendar for the Second Annual Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training which will be held April 4-6, 2014!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Donate Life...Be an Organ Donor

April is National Donate Life Month!  I can't stress enough the importance of organ donation.  I see lives benefit from it every day and patients who are given a second chance because someone cared enough to donate their organs, tissue, or eyes. You can get online right now and register to be an organ donor so that someone might live because of your gift of life.  Check out www.lifenethealth.org for more information.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training Institute

Over the weekend, I went to the First Annual Mid-Atlantic Play Therapy Training in Alexandria, VA.  I had the great opportunity of learning from some of the experts in the field including Judy Rubin, Eliana Gil and Rise VanFleet.  I want to post more details about that experience and give it the time it deserves, but in the meantime here are a few highlights from the weekend. . .

I had the opportunity to meet Eliana Gil after one of the lectures

 There were so many miniatures and it was very difficult not to buy one of each for sand trays
When in Northern VA, there is no where else I would rather be than with this beautiful woman!  One weekend was not enough , but it was so great to catch up and spend some quality time together.  I am truly blessed to have the most amazing friends.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Common Ground

I have a patient who has been quiet and slow to open up.  I have tried everything to build rapport, but she is just so difficult to engage at times.  She has even tried to fake sleeping in the middle of our activities so I will leave.  Today was a beautiful day so I convinced her to go outside with me.  While we were out there she mentioned that she had watched a movie earlier that her mom thought was hilarious, but she couldn't remember the name.  All of a sudden she yelled, "I've been shot" in a British accent and then looked away as if nothing happened.  I was confused and a bit startled as it is not encouraged to yell such a statement in public, let alone at a children's hospital.  After my initial confusion, I realized what the patient was talking about, which led to a 30 minute conversation about our new common interest--Rebel Wilson.  She then insisted we watch the clip below at least 10 times and laughed hysterically each time.

Thank you Fat Amy for a moment of connection with a 9 year old.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Welcome Springtime



One of my favorite things is the warmth of spring.  I love to play and explore outside.  This was a beautiful weekend in southern VA and a perfect weekend to play outside!
Jared's parents came to visit so we spent our time outside enjoying the sunshine. Since we live close to the beach and most of our family live in Pennsylvania we have visitors a lot and I love it. When people come to visit it is another excuse for me to think like a tourist and plan fun things for our visitors to do.
On Saturday we went to Colonial Williamsburg for the day, Sunday we enjoyed the sunshine at the baseball game, and then ended the weekend with a wonderful bike ride.

This is me...

I have to admit, I am not sure about this blogging thing.  I love to be creative, usually with paint, clay, or some other substance I can hold in my hand, but I also love to travel, explore and learn .  So I decided I would give this a try and share my love for my family, my work, and my play.

I have been a certified child life specialist for about three years, which basically means I get to play for a living!  I play every day with patients, siblings, families, and even co-workers.  It is my job to make sure that every person in the hospital has a voice and that ever child has the opportunity to express him or herself in the familiar language of play.  I work in a pediatric intensive care unit and I am amazed every day at the resiliance and strength of the families I am able to interact with.  My office is in a playroom where patients and their families can play video games, paint on the graffiti wall, build lego towns, and escape the hospital world (even for a minute).  When I am not playing in the playroom, I am setting up a play space at the bedside or in the waiting room, reading to patients, or cuddling with the most precious babies.  I am truly blessed to have a job that pays me to play.

When I am not playing at work, I am playing at home.  My husband and I love to go on adventures, plan vacations, and enjoy the beautiful outdoors.  Since we both work crazy hospital hours, we do not get to see each other much during the week so the weekends become our playground!  Whether its heading to the beach, going on a bike ride, planning a trip or even just playing pass the pigs on a rainy day (I usually win) --we love to have fun.

I am currently working on my master's in marriage and family therapy from Liberty University and my certification in play therapy from Old Dominion University which has allowed me to learn, even more, the importance of play in my life.  I am excited to share my love for life and those things that bring me joy.  Thank you for taking time to stop by.