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Child Life Supportive Resources

Children's National Child Life specialist Liz Johnson

Help Me Keep Calm Program

The Help Me Keep Calm (HMKC) Program provides supportive services for children with autism and/or developmental delays who are scheduled for surgery or a procedure under anesthesia. Prior to the day of surgery, the Child Life team will complete an assessment over the phone with your family to discuss your child's sensory needs, behavioral challenges and past medical experiences. Based on this assessment, the team will then create a safe passage plan for your child and share the plan with your medical team.

In addition to the safe passage plan, our team offers the following resources for the day of surgery:

  • Private, quiet waiting space
  • Modified forms of communication, including picture schedules and preparation materials
  • Sensory items including weighted lap pads, sensory toys, headphones, noise machines and more

If you have questions or think your child would benefit from the HMKC Program, please call Child Life Services at 202-476-5665.

Sibling Support

Hospitalization impacts the whole family and can be a stressful, traumatic time for everyone. Brothers and sisters often need special attention. Child life specialists provide support to siblings through individualized teaching sessions, psychological preparation and play opportunities prior to their visit with a sibling. We can recommend books and resources that will help brothers and sisters better understand what their sibling is experiencing and what they can expect when visiting.

Child life specialists also help caregivers understand the impact of hospitalization on siblings and the importance of providing additional attention. Here are a few tips our child life specialists provide to families:

  • Plan special individual time with each sibling
  • Try to keep to familiar routines and schedules
  • If able to visit, prepare siblings for what they will see and experience
  • Encourage siblings to exchange photos, cards or write letters to each other
  • Reassure them that they did not cause their sibling’s illness
  • Support and encourage siblings to express their feelings

MR – I Can Do It

The “MR-I Can Do It” Program is designed to help children ages six and older undergo magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) without sedation. This program embraces family-centered care and has both your child’s – and your family’s – needs in mind. Child life specialists use a special MRI preparation room to help teach children about having an MRI. Children are able to listen and become familiar with the sounds the camera makes, play with a doll-sized mock scanner and practice holding still while lying in a play tunnel. Learn more about Children’s National’s Division of Diagnostic Imaging and Radiology.

Taking Care of You and Comforting Your Baby in the Hospital

“Taking Care of You and Comforting Your Baby in the Hospital” is a support and teaching group for parents and caregivers of medically fragile infants and children. The group meets every other Wednesday afternoon, alternating locations between the Heart and Kidney Unit and the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit.

A key component of this program is the training that demonstrates massage techniques to parents and caregivers on teaching dolls so they can feel confident in providing comfort to their own child through hands-on touch. The group is led by two of our child life specialists who are certified as Educators of Infant Massage and trained as practitioners in mind-body medicine techniques.

Bear Hugs: Positioning for Comfort Training

Child life specialists, in collaboration with Nursing, have established this training program for use during invasive procedures. The program trains staff on techniques to involve and support parents and/or caregivers in providing comfort to their child during blood draws, IV starts, injections and other procedures. Research has proven these holding techniques to be safe and beneficial.