“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose
the healing capacity for humor.”
– Dr. Stuart Brown
“What is she doing with that doll?”
A mother wondered aloud as her 3-year-old daughter placed a Cabbage Patch Kid into the toy kitchen’s oven.
To the casual observer, it might appear the child was taking the doll’s name literally.
But to a Certified Child Life Specialist, the little girl’s actions spoke volumes about her current life – as a newly diagnosed cardiology patient.
After experiencing multiple MRI and CT scans, it’s only natural for her to process the various medical tests in the way most appropriate to kids and teens. Through play.
“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”
– Kay Redfield Jamison
Engaging in play allows the child a new way to share what is clear and what is confusing with the adult.
By providing a safe environment, this little girl opens up, saying to the doll, “Don’t move, or your heart will get bigger and burst!” before shutting the oven.
As we continue to observe and play with her, it becomes apparent that though she understands the importance of holding still during medical tests, she struggles with the concept of how her heart works – or doesn’t work – correctly.
We have now discovered that this little one needs help understanding what is happening to her body, but how can we provide that? We can’t expect a 3-year-old to sit through a lecture on human anatomy and physiology.
We learn best by doing – and making it feel safe.
“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”
– Diane Ackerman
As a life-long playful learner, I truly believe the best way to learn and grow is through play.
For our 3-year-old in question, this means playing with the miniature CT scanner and making “pictures” of a doll’s toy heart.
Likewise, an 8-year-old may play the board game “Operation” to regain a sense of control after an appendectomy.
But it isn’t only for children. A 15-year-old can overcome a needle phobia by injecting food coloring into an orange.
Play changes the world – one family at a time
If you’ve read this far, you’re very curious who I am. From a very young age, my parents encouraged me to play.
Like all children and teens, I’ve experienced my share of stressful experiences. Through all the ups and downs, play kept me whole and moving forward (and continues to support me even today).
I hold a master’s degree in Family and Child Studies and maintain the certification of a Child Life Specialist. My specializations include music, dance, movement, and acting.
I work hard to keep the healing power of play alive in our community.
Our Work Together
Because no two individuals are alike, I provide various therapeutic options for children, teens, and their families.
It’s hard to choose a favorite therapeutic activity, but if it involves acting, dancing, or singing, I’m the first to jump in! (A young patient once cast me in the role of Anna during an impromptu re-enactment of Frozen in an exam room. I believe I did the part justice.)
More importantly (yet unofficially), I hold the titles “Baby Whisperer,” “Peek-a-boo Master,” and “VCUG Queen,” aka “Voiding Cystourethrogram,” as well as the knowledge of multiple obscure yet popular subjects generally important only to the younger generation. (I’ve been known to calm teenagers using only a handful of ambiguous animé references.)
Welcome to a new way of understanding and helping your child thrive.