Disease should never interrupt childhood. But it does. And when it does, the Gill Center is ready to help – not only with exceptional clinical capabilities, but also with programs designed specifically to care for the emotional, psychological and spiritual needs of children.
Here are a representative handful of programs our staff uses to care for patients.
The Gill Center is especially privileged to have three psychologists provide exclusive care to our patients. Drs. Lazarus and Germann, with their new colleague Dr. Faith, have mentored UT Southwestern post-doctoral students, secured funding to support their research and have presented their findings at national meetings and in peer-reviewed published literature. A recent study examining the prevalence of anxiety and depression in children with cancer, within one year of their diagnosis, also explored hope as an important concept. If the findings are conclusive, this may allow the potential for a specific psychological intervention to improve the quality of life for our patients.
Providing Comfort and Joy: Child Life
On any given day in the Gill Center, people are working to bring comfort and joy to children who are scared, bored, angry, anxious or simply sad.
Led by a Children’s Health℠ chaplain, Godly Play uses sacred stories from world religions to help children make meaning of their lives and relate to existential threats.
Play is a child’s natural way of communicating about his or her world. Play therapy gives a child the opportunity to express feelings and difficulties to a trained play therapist who can help the child feel better about his or herself and the circumstances. Play is the child’s language, and toys represent words. Just as adults have the verbal ability to talk about their problems and concerns, children use play to communicate the confusion and stress in their world in the presence of a caring, safe and accepting therapist. Through this unique play experience and the special relationship with the therapist, a child is able to develop skills to cope with stressful life experiences, such as illness and hospitalization.
Caps for Kids
Taking the stigma out of baldness, Caps for Kids allows Gill Center patients to select an autographed cap from one of their favorite celebrities or sports heroes.
Always a favorite event of patients and families alike, these parties – one for cancer patients and another for sickle cell patients – arts and crafts, gift giving, music and special holiday visitors.
Music, massage and pet therapies
Children’s Health offers patients all of these to ease both physical and emotional boo-boos.
Child Life Department
Members of our Child Life staff hold advanced-degree training in the growth and development of children. They help children and their families adapt to the hospital and cope with medical treatments through programs like these:
During medical play, child life specialists provide age-appropriate information to prepare children psychologically for treatments, invasive procedures or surgery. This often includes play with dolls to help a child understand what’s happening to his or her body.
Beads of Courage
Widely recognized as an exceptional therapeutic tool, Beads of Courage provides an easy way for children to tell and retell their story. Each bead represents a milestone for the child – events like an IV, an MRI or chemotherapy. By telling their stories, children better understand what’s happening to them and affirm their own courage and strength.
Child life specialists visit schools to talk with students about what their friend has gone through and how they can offer support when he or she returns to school. A Gill Center-produced video about childhood cancer and treatment supplements the visit or serves as a substitute if the patient lives far from Children’s Health.
“A Day for Me” Sibling Program
Inviting brothers and sisters to a “behind the scenes” look at the Gill Center’s facilities. These tours, which include explanations of common tests and procedures, help educate children on what their siblings are going through.