March is Child Life Month, observed to honor Child Life Specialists around the world for their work with children and families.

A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes is a life-changing event for children and their families. Young patients have to cope with finger sticks and injections, frequent blood work and medical devices, which can make it difficult to adjust to a new normal.

At Joslin Diabetes Center, we recognize this transition can be overwhelming and offer a number of support services and resources to help patients navigate life during this overwhelming transition. As part of our care team, Joslin’s Child Life Specialists create a supportive and caring environment, offering age-appropriate ways to learn about diabetes and tools every step of the way.

“Joslin’s Child Life Services are so vital because we support everyone in the family,” said Maura Pepek, MS, CCLS, Child Life Specialist at Joslin. “We work towards creating a comfortable space for when patients and their families come in for routine care. We can be helpful for many different ways.”

Our Child Life Specialists support patients with a number of interventions including medical play, procedural support, therapeutic activities and health education as ways to reduce stress and teach patients and their families about diabetes.

Medical play may include syringe painting using a needleless insulin syringe or creating a picture with expired test strips. Children may also engage in medical fantasy play. For children with type 1 diabetes, this can include putting an insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on a doll or checking a pretend blood glucose level on a stuffed animal.

“I use play for patients to feel more comfortable during their visit. I help prepare kids for lab work using medical play and real medical supplies without needles so they know exactly what to expect during their trip to the laboratory,” said Pepek.

Above all, the goal is to make appointments and diabetes management less stressful through developmentally appropriate play and education so that it is understandable and not as overwhelming for a child. “Our patients experience childhood just like any other kid,” said Pepek.

Although this content is reviewed by Joslin Diabetes Center healthcare professionals, it is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.