Child Life Heroes: Continuing the Work Through Blogging

After years of training and professional experience in child life, child life specialists build up a amazing amount of specialized skills and knowledge that can help others in their field. In recent years, blogging has provided an effective platform for child life specialists to share their best practices and insights with their peers and to learn about the field. When Dawn Klausmeier, CCLS (certified child life specialist), C-CISM (certified critical incident stress management), transitioned into staying at home with her two kids in 2017, she decided to continue her child life work by sharing her knowledge through blogging. I recently asked her about her experience as a child life specialist and how she uses her blog, Dose of Play, to support others.

Photo provided by Dawn Klausmeier

Photo provided by Dawn Klausmeier

Dawn has experience covering all areas of the hospital, from the general medical unit to the intensive care unit (ICU). She made the difficult decision to take time away from her clinical role to be home with her family, but is now using it as an opportunity to share how her child life skills are helpful in motherhood. “Becoming a mother has been my biggest pride and joy, but also my most challenging role and chapter in my life,” Dawn says, “For that reason, I’m passionate about supporting other caregivers, particularly mothers, who are navigating parenthood.” She created her blog Dose of Play to feature the work of child life specialists and how they support kids and families inside and outside hospital walls. Her blog has a variety of resources to empower caregivers who are helping during times of illness, injury, or death of a loved one, as well as play inspiration and emotional regulation practices.

Dawn’s favorite part about being a child life specialist is helping children realize their strength and abilities when they’re faced with challenges that they don’t think they can overcome. She recently had the opportunity to help four siblings do just that. The kids, ranging in age from 5 to 13, were at the clinic for routine vaccinations and blood draws, and they were instantly fearful about their impending shots. The oldest child recalled that previous immunizations left the children crying and unwilling to hold still due to their heightened anxiety. This isn’t uncommon; the clinic has a medical assistant who often has to hold down uncooperative kids during shots.

Dawn and the medical assistant using SpellBound tools with a 5-year-old during multiple shots.

But Dawn stepped in and was able to help all the siblings get through multiple shots without any tears. How’d she do it, you might ask? She used play. Dawn coupled her child life skills with SpellBound tools to incorporate play into the procedures, and all four kids coped extremely well, to the point where some didn’t even notice the needle poke. Using SpellBound, she kept them calm and engaged while giving instructions and behavior-specific praise. The nurse administering the shots said that it was the easiest she’d ever done shots for a 5-year-old, and their mother was laughing in amazement as she watched the procedures.

“I appreciate how SpellBound is easy to use, very accessible on-the-go, and is mindful of infection control policies,” says Dawn. “It’s great for a wide developmental range, and creates a magical shared experience between families and staff when used.” She loved being able to use SpellBound with the siblings and seeing their eyes and smiles widen instantly. “It’s fun to see how those moments of exploring the technology together actually connect families and staff members.”

Whether in a hospital, a clinic, or a blog, child life specialists are making a difference in the lives of children and families in many ways. Their work is crucial in bettering patient experience and reducing trauma for kids around the world. “It feels so heartwarming to be a beacon of light in someone’s day. Whether it’s gratitude from a child who you’ve provided with the opportunity to play, helping a parent find their voice, or brainstorming with a colleague, there really are endless reasons to love the child life profession,” Dawn says.

To read about this story from Dawn’s perspective, check out her blog post.