Worry and fear are common emotions that plague parents when their young ones are sick. I can attest to this, first hand. When my four year old was rushed to the emergency room at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta because of escalating, excruciating pain, I prayed that his diagnosis would be “growing pains.” To my dismay my Connor was diagnosed with a raging bone infection, rushed into surgery and spent the next 11 days under the watchful care of a team of clinicians.
Soon to be nine years old, my brave boy proudly shares stories about the four-inch scar on his left thigh, and the “cool” memories of his hospital stay. Ask him what they are and he’ll quickly name them off - the gentle doggie that came to visit daily when he was bed-bound, the red wagon ride that toured him to the beautiful train model in the hospital lobby, and the smiling clown who stopped by to give him a hug.
Children’s handful of programs remains an integral part of the non profit’s mission of going above and beyond medical treatment and cure for their young patients’ coping, healing, and recovery.
Canines for Kids: The Canines for Kids initiative at Children’s is a special animal-assisted therapy program of Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Doodles who visit patients, along with their human companions, throughout all the hospitals to participate in a variety of activities. Activities include laying in bed with a patient, taking the dog for a walk around the unit, or even playing fetch with the dog. These specially trained canines help minimize the stress of the hospital environment, reduce anxiety, provide distraction from illness and hospitalization, and motivate and encourage patients to reach treatment goals, while supporting their social, physical, and emotional needs.
“Amari tends to be introverted, especially at the hospital, but she has a special connection with Flo and Ellie [Flo’s handler]. Having Flo around opens her up and makes her more comfortable with the many staff members she interacts with daily.”
Artist in Residence Program: Art therapy has been a proven benefit in the coping, healing, and recovery processes for patients and their families during hospital stays. The Artist in Residence program at Children’s includes art classes and bedside visits to patients. Artists work with staff and families to creatively engage and best support the young patients as they go through their journeys. Projects that engage children include decorating rooms, creating their own “museums,” attending art parties, and showcasing art work (painting, drawing, photography, etc.) in special exhibits throughout the hospital.
Caroline Snodgrass, Artist in Residence, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite reflected on the response she received from a teen patient taking an art class:
“I love it because for a second I completely forgot I was even in a hospital.”
Caroline explained that, “Letting our kids be kids and helping them to forget about whatever they are going through. Seeing that big smile on their face makes it all worth it!”
Child Life: Children, along with their families and caregivers, often need help coping with the stress and uncertainty of illness, injury and treatment. Certified Child Life specialists engage in therapeutic play with their young patients to help reduce fear, anxiety and even pain during hospital stays. These specialists provide coping mechanisms to patients and help patients distract from being in the hospital. This may include music therapy, playing games, coloring, etc.
Music Therapy: Music Therapy services at Children's are provided by board-certified and state-licensed music therapists. Music therapists sing and play instruments, encourage children to write songs to facilitate positive coping, emotional expression, and relaxation. They also use music to reach non-musical goals, including increased deep breathing, relaxation, fine/gross motor skills, and emotional expression. Music therapies are also available for families by assisting in the creation of legacy projects with and for families (lullabies, songs, or video/music projects for patients) and provide siblings with the opportunity to express emotions.
To learn more about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and the family support services department, please visit: choa.org.
Canines for Kids
Artist in Residence