March is observed as Child Life Month, to honor child life specialists around the world for their work with children and families.
When a child is first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, the entire family has to adjust their daily routine. It can sometimes be hard for a child to acclimate to their “new normal.” Some of the common themes that children struggle with after first getting diagnosed are adjusting to multiple finger sticks and injections, transitioning back to school, and understanding that (s)he did not do anything to cause this diagnosis. Often times once children hear how their day-to-day routine needs to adjust, they begin to wonder if they are still going to be able to do all the things (s)he loves to do like having sleepovers, participating in student council, or playing soccer.
At Joslin Diabetes Center there are certified child life specialists who meet the child during their first initial visit in the Pediatric Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic. A large part of the role of the child life specialists at Joslin is to assist the child and family in adjusting to their “new normal”. The Pediatric Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic at Joslin is equipped with a playroom for children. The child life team utilizes play to develop a relationship with the patient during the initial visit to the clinic. By establishing a relationship with the child, the child life specialist is able to explain the diagnosis and clear up any misconceptions the child might have at his/her developmental level.
Child life specialists utilize medical play with new patients to normalize medical supplies like syringes and test strips that have become a constant in the child’s life. Often times children develop a fear around these materials. Child life specialists work with children to view the medical supplies they use as tools to help keep their bodies healthy. The child life team offers resources for classroom presentations, to assist in easing the transition back to school. Above all, the most abundant theme that is echoed throughout the playroom by the child life team is that despite this diagnosis, the child can still do all the things (s)he enjoyed doing before diabetes and that they should not let diabetes stop them from achieving their dreams.