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Spring 2015
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Child Life in The Blau Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disease

In January 2015, the newly renovated pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic opened its doors, providing patients and families with a modernized, restful place to receive treatment for cancer diagnoses and blood disorders. Child Life Specialist Morgan Stojanowski was an active member of the renovation committee, providing key input into the design and layout of the clinic. The play space and clinical areas reflect the team’s dedication to well-rounded, family centered care. In this imaginative space, child life interventions focusing on technology, diagnostic education and creative expression are flourishing. Patients and families are given a variety of resources and tools to support their clinical experience; interventions that promote play, relaxation, mastery and normalization. Developmental factors, coping styles and medical requirements were considered during each step of the design process to ensure that the Blau Center spoke to the needs of the patients and families. This newly renovated environment helps provide the level of support and resources our patients and families deserve.   

Play area in the newly renovated clinic

Child Life Expands Services to the IBD Clinic

In March 2015, the IBD clinic welcomed Child Life Specialist Abby Klock to their team. Abby is an integrative part of the patient’s healthcare team and works to ensure patients’ and families’ needs are addressed in a supportive and patient-friendly manner. Abby provides Child Life services such as procedural support, distraction, developmentally appropriate play, diagnostic teachings, medical play and helping patients transition from pediatric to adult care. Dr. Dubinsky, Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Hepatology said, “The treatment of IBD is complex and requires a multidisciplinary team and child life is critical for the integrated and successful management of children with Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis”. Abby is currently collaborating with Dr. Dubinsky to help make the pediatric waiting area a more inviting space for the specific population seen daily in the clinic. With a New York City theme and age-appropriate activities, patients will feel at ease in this bright and welcoming environment.



PICU Weekly Coffee Hour Huge Success


Most Thursdays at 3:30pm, you can find child life and social work collaborating to bring families in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) a weekly coffee half-hour. This is a time for families who have children admitted in the PICU to take a break, step away from the bedside, enjoy some treats, and interact with other families who are experiencing similar situations. Kim DiSanto, nurse manager in the PICU says, “Coffee hour has been viewed very positively by the PICU families. Interacting with other parents, our social worker and child life specialists provide the caregivers emotional support during this difficult time.”

Families and staff members enjot some coffee, treats, and good company
New Child Life Pilot in the Metabolic Clinic

In January, the Child Life program began a three month pilot serving pediatric patients and families in the metabolic clinic.  Every Monday and Wednesday, during high volume clinic hours, Child Life Specialist Cheryl Strauss provides interventions such as developmental play and procedural support to children and adolescents in this setting in order to mitigate stress, promote coping, and improve the overall visit experience.  Working in collaboration with members of the clinic’s healthcare team, the child life specialist frequently implements distraction and relaxation techniques during medical procedures, such as blood draws.  Using popular “tools” such as bubbles, books, and iPads in a way that is tailored to each individual patient, the child life specialist can help positively transform these medical encounters.  Lissette Estrella, the clinic’s Nurse Practitioner, works with child life in the exam rooms and observes the program’s impact.  From her perspective, “What Cheryl has done in our clinic with our frightened children is amazing. I've seen the kids mesmerized by her games and bubbles. Children who typically cry and fight are now calm!  She has been a life saver to these kids and parents have started to request her presence during the blood draws and physical exams.” 

Child Life Services brings comfort to Metabolic Clinic patients
Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Week Enjoyed By All

March was Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Month and the CLCAT Department celebrated with staff and families in the hospital. Hosted the last week in March, the CLCAT team held daily education tables in the hospital’s atrium where anyone in the hospital could come and learn about the work the department does on a daily basis. There were demonstrations, live music, trivia games, and prizes. The week was capped off with an Ice Cream Social. Patients, families, and staff were invited to the Zone Theater to enjoy a mid-day treat, entertainment, and fun!

Child Life Specialists Tori Levine and Brianna Silverberg scoop ice cream for patients, families and staff in celebration of Child Life and Creative Arts therapy Week
Staff Additions, Accomplishments and Updates





   Please join us in welcoming two wonderful new additions to our

Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy team:

Gabriela Ortiz and Divna Wheelwright (Left to Right). 


Gabriela Ortiz is our newest Music Therapist. She is a creative arts therapy coordinator and researcher at Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai Hospital, where she works in the pediatric emergency department and pediatric inpatient units. Gabriela received her Masters of Science degree in Music Therapy and her advanced certification in Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy. Gabriela served as adjunct professor for undergraduate music therapy majors, and has presented her work at international conferences on music-centered music therapy.

Divna Wheelwright is our new Family Resource Child Life Specialist. Divna has a background in outpatient and emergency child life intervention as well as experience working in the pediatric camp and palliative care setting. Divna currently serves as a member of the Child Life Council's Leadership Academy and has an interest in research, non-pharmacological approaches to pain management, and reflective writing.





Morgan Stojanowski, Child Life Specialist, presented a workshop at Mount Sinai parent entitles: Play, The Work of Childhood. The workshop featured developmentally appropriate play interactions for parents with their children. The workshop had a great attendance and all attendants left well informed.


Sarah Yazdian, Art Therapist and Child Life Specialist will be speaking at the Center to Advance Palliative Care 2015 National Seminar entitled Palliative Care Everywhere: Bridging the gaps. She will be speaking with Palliative Care Attending Rachel Adams, MD, about the successful integration of Integrative Therapy into the Patient’s Care Plan.

Gabriela Ortiz, Music Therapist, presented at the World Congress of Music Therapy in Krems, Austria. One of the presentations was entitled, "Parallel Process in Music Therapy Supervision." The presentation consisted of an exploration of her research study on parallel process employing the qualitative analysis of first person research and reflexive phenomenology. She also led a workshop entitled "The Individual Music-Centered Assessment Profile (IMCAP-ND) in Self-Assessment." This workshop focused on evaluating the therapists’ musical-clinical competence in engaging a child in musical-play within the context of the Individualized Music-Centered Assessment Profile for Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Relating and Communicating (IMCAP-ND).


Toshiko Nonaka, Child Life Specialist, will be presenting at the Child Life Council’s National Conference in May. She will be presenting alongside Leigh Penner, LCSW, about their weekly coffee hour for families of children in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).


Divna Wheelwright, Child Life Specialist has been selected by the Child Life Council to serve on the 2015 Bulletin Task Force.


Lauren Smith, Art Therapist, and Sarah Yazdian, Art Therapist and Child Life specialist, facilitated a therapeutic art workshop called “Pieces and the While Healing Reflections throughout Art” for Woman to Woman, a program of the Mount Sinai Hospital, Division of Gynecologic Oncology and Social Work Services.


Jessa Carey, Child Life Specialist was featured in a video that highlights the amazing Child Life services available in the Pediatric Emergency Department and how these services help patients and families cope with their visits. You can view the video here:


Luis Borges, Technology Coordinator, will be presenting at the Child Life Council’s National Conference in May. He will be presenting alongside Child Life and IT professionals about using social media in Child Life departments and on using tech tools for creating patient narratives. He also recently hosted a "Technology for Therapeutic Patient Narratives" workshop in New York for Child Life and Creative Arts therapy month.


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The Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department
Kravis Children's Hospital at Mount Sinai
One Gustave L. Levy Place, Box 1153
New York, NY 10029