ACT To Prevent Heatstroke!

By Amanda Griffin
Safe Kids Upstate NY Coalition Coordinator, Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital

Never leave your child alone in a car.

With the summer in full swing and many areas reaching record high temperatures, it is important to remind parents and caregivers to never leave your child alone in the car, not even for a minute!  Already in 2013, there have been 20 heatstroke related fatalities.  Heatstroke results when the body isn’t able to cool itself quickly enough and the body temperature rises to dangerous levels.  Young children are at a heightened risk as their body heats up three to five times faster than adults.  On a warm day, cars will heat up quickly, 19 degrees in 10 minutes!  On an 80 degree day the inside of a closed car can quickly reach and exceed 100 degrees.  When a child’s internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees, major organs can shut down, and when their temperature reaches 107 degrees they can die.

Last year, 33 children died and two years ago there were 49 deaths related to heatstroke.  Since 1998, more than 580 children across theUnited States have died from heatstroke when unattended in a vehicle. These heatstroke deaths were the result of:

  • 52% – child “forgotten” by caregiver
  • 29% – child playing in unattended vehicle
  • 18% – child intentionally left in vehicle by adult

These tragedies can happen to anyone, and have occurred when a parent intentionally has left a child in their car to run into the store or when a curious child has entered a vehicle on their own and cannot get back out of their car.  Heatstroke deaths have even resulted when parents unintentionally forget to drop their children off at daycare.  They may have switched their normal routines or encountered distractions and headed directly to their office or other locations instead of their child’s daycare center, as was the case with parent, Reggie McKinnon.

Safe Kids Worldwide encourages everyone to ACT, and provides these helpful tips:

  •  A: Avoid heatstroke-related injury and death by never leaving your child alone in a car, not even for a minute. And make sure to keep your car locked when you’re not in it so kids don’t get in on their own.
  • C: Create reminders by putting something in the back of your car next to your child such as a briefcase, a purse or a cell phone that is needed at your final destination. This is especially important if you’re not following your normal routine.
  • T: Take action. If you see a child alone in a car, call 911. Emergency personnel want you to call. They are trained to respond to these situations. One call could save a life.

For more information on preventing heatstroke visit Safe Kids Worldwide.

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Can You Imagine?

By Beth Kinsley
Child Life Specialist, CCLS

We all have magical powers inside of us. These powers allow us to travel the world in the blink of an eye, transform into someone or something else, and even fly…. It’s called our IMAGINATION! Children will often imagine being an animal or sailing a ship to the moon. Adults may daydream of fabulous vacations or new adventures. Mostly we envision something exciting and wonderful. But sometimes scary and unwanted events occur and our imaginations take us on an unwelcomed trip.

Let’s test your imagination muscles… Imagine yourself in a large building filled with lots of lights and noises. There are people walking around. Some of them notice you, some of them don’t. You’re led to a small room with a bed and given pajamas. People rush in and out of your room. Sometimes they look right past you, sometimes they touch you, and sometimes they hurt you. Everyone talks around you in a strange language. The only thing you can be certain of is that they are talking about you. Suddenly you realize that everyone around you is taller and stronger than you. Now stop. Did you feel safe in this scenario? Or did you feel vulnerable, uncertain, and powerless?

For many children this is how they view the hospital. As nurses and doctors enter the room with the goal of helping the child recover, they touch, poke, and inspect the child. All the while, talking to the adults present in medical terms that the child does not understand.

The child takes all the information they have gathered (these people are stronger than me and poke me with needles, and I heard the word “remove”). Then their imagination begins to swirl. “They are going to cut something off of me!”

Fear not, there is an antidote for this panic inducing imagination. Knowledge. By explaining to the child what will occur step by step in terms they understand, you are leading their imagination in a more accurate direction and calming their fears. Child Life Specialists are hospital workers that prepare children for procedures using pictures, dolls, and medical equipment. Children are encouraged to ask questions and be involved in their care.  By giving them knowledge you are eliminating the unknown. By giving the child a task during the procedure, such as blowing bubbles, you are returning some of the control.

You don’t have to wait until there is an emergency. You can visit the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital website to learn ways to talk to your child about the hospital.

Let’s do another imagination exercise… Envision yourself as a child back in that building with the bright lights and loud noises. Picture a hospital where pediatric patients are acting like kids. Down the hall from your room is a playroom where other children are exploring. Visualize group activities that include creating, playing, music making, and your imagination. Imagine a place where your magical powers are encouraged to grow while you heal.

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Celiac Awareness Month

By Amy Merwarth, RD, CDN
Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

May is National Celiac Disease Awareness month!  This is an important time to bring attention to this hereditary, autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive system when foods containing gluten are consumed.  Gluten is found in foods that contain wheat, rye, barley and possibly oats.  Three million Americans are living with celiac disease, yet 83% of individuals living with celiac disease are still undiagnosed!  This is a remarkable improvement from 10 years ago when there were 97% undiagnosed.  Celiac disease affects 1 out of every 141 Americans and 1 in 22 first-degree family members (parent, child, and sibling) and 1 in 39 second-degree family members (aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, cousin, grandparent, grandchild and half-sibling) are at risk for celiac disease.  Your risk may double if your sibling has celiac disease.

Being diagnosed with any disease can be difficult.  Knowing why you haven’t been feeling well can be a relief.  Everyone is affected differently by the symptoms and some people are even free of symptoms.  A 2012 survey found that 35% of people who were at risk for celiac disease had no reason to suspect that the symptoms they were experiencing were due to undiagnosed celiac disease.  Some of the symptoms of celiac disease include: abdominal distension, abdominal pain, anemia, bloating, bone pain, constipation, cramping, dental hypoplasia (enamel missing on teeth), dermatitis herpetiformis (rash), diarrhea, poor growth, fatigue, folate deficiency, foul smelling stools, inability to concentrate, irritability, muscle cramps, osteopenia, osteoporosis, short stature, sleep disturbance, weakness, weight loss and/or vomiting.

If left untreated, celiac disease can increase your risk of other problems such as osteoporosis, osteopenia, infertility, thyroid disease, nutrition deficiencies, multiple food allergies and even certain cancers like lymphoma.  This is why it is important to be screened and tested for celiac disease, especially if you are at risk.  You may want to talk about getting tested for celiac disease with your primary care doctor if you have a family member with this disease and or have symptoms suggestive of this disease.

For more information visit:

Grilled Summer Vegetables- Tasty and Gluten-Free!
1 (about 1 ¼ lbs) unpeeled eggplant, sliced in ½ inch rounds
1 (about ¾ lb) zucchini, sliced diagonally in ½ inch rounds
1 (about ½ lb) sweet red pepper, halved, seeded, cut in ½ inch strips
2 Tbsp basting oil
Vegetable Oil

Clean grill with wire brush.  Using soft cloth, coat grill grate lightly with vegetable oil.
Drizzle eggplant, zucchini and pepper with basting oil.  Sear on both sides.
Grill, turning every 1-2 minutes, until both sides are grill-marked and vegetables are knife-tender, 10-12 minutes.

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“Peds to Parents” becomes part of HealthLink on Air radio program

Dr. Cantor during radio showBy Amber Smith, MS
Senior Editor,
Marketing & University Communications

The Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital blog, “Peds to Parents” is joining Upstate’s weekly “HealthLink on Air” radio program, which will air at 9 p.m. Sunday evenings on WRVO Public Media.

For the debut program on May 26, Dr. Richard Cantor, MD, director of the Pediatric Emergency Department, talks about how to avoid several common summertime injuries. For future segments, he and other medical professionals will address a variety of issues of interest to parents and caregivers of infants, children and teens.

The hour-long “HealthLink on Air” program is one way that Upstate educates and informs the Central New York community on matters of health, medicine and science. Since launching in 2006, “HealthLink” has showcased hundreds of experts from the academic medical center, the Syracuse community and beyond, creating a treasure trove of archived interviews which can be accessed at the HealthLink on Air website. In addition to the “Peds to Parents” segments, “HealthLink” also features regular segments, including psychologist Rich O’Neill’s “Check Up From the Neck Up” and registered dietitian Terry Podolak’s “Healthy Eats,” along with “Public Health Today,” from Dr. Donna Bacchi, MD, “What’s Your Emergency?” from Dr. Derek Cooney, MD, and “The Healing Muse” from bioethics and humanities professor Deirdre Neilen, PhD.

WRVO — part of the National Public Radio digital network — can be heard from Cortland to Watertown, and Utica to Geneva.

The program’s producer is Amber Smith, a veteran newspaper journalist who covered health and medicine for The Post-Standard for 23 years before joining Upstate. Linda Cohen serves as host of HealthLink on Air, and a dedicated team from SUNY Upstate’s Educational Communications and Marketing departments provides technical services.

Suggestions for “Peds to Parents” segments or “HealthLink” in general are accepted via email at

How to listen

Tune in 9 to 10 p.m. Sundays on WRVO, on these channels:

  • 89.9 FM & HD Oswego/Syracuse
  • 90.3 FM & HD2 Syracuse
  • 91.7 FM & 99.9 Watertown
  • 90.1 FM & 92.3 FM Hamilton
  • 91.9 FM Utica
  • 90.5 FM Cortland
  • 90.7 FM Geneva
  • 89.9 Norwich

You can also stream the program live from or listen to podcasts available after the show airs on or on Upstate’s HealthLink on Air website.


Listen to the debut “Peds to Parents” segment, Keeping Children Safe in the Warmer Weather, with Dr. Richard Cantor, MD.

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Car Seats and Seat Belts and Kids—Oh, My!

boy in car seatBy Y. Katharine Chang, MD, FAAP
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of General Pediatrics

When I was a young child, I don’t think car safety seats existed. For sure, there weren’t many laws about keeping kids safe in the car. Kids sat or played or fought in the backseat, usually without any restraints, or sat in the front seat, often in their parent’s lap. If you’re of a certain age, I bet you’ve hung out with your siblings, cousins and friends in the way back of a station wagon, in a big jumble of kid arms and legs, while the grown-ups drove and chatted up front.

Nowadays, it’s hard to even imagine driving kids around without dealing with car seats. Sometimes, car seats are frustrating and annoying; often, they’re inconvenient; but, they are always necessary.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death in Americans, ages 5 to 24, and the second leading cause of death in children between 1 and 4. The number of deaths from car accidents has fallen in the past 20 years, probably due to improved child passenger safety. Still, nearly half of the children who die in car accidents are unrestrained. Seat belts are really important, but restraining children with a car seat appropriate for the age and size of the child is much more effective (that is, safer!) than just using a seat belt.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has several recommendations, based on the best available evidence, on how to keep children safe in the car. These recommendations are echoed by other safety organizations, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Safe Kids USA.

  1. Infants and toddlers should ride rear-facing until they outgrow their car seat by weight or by height, or until they are at least 2 years old.
  2. Children who are older than age 2 and/or have outgrown their rear-facing car seat should use a forward-facing car seat with a harness for as long as possible.
  3. Children who have outgrown the weight or height limit of their harnessed seat should use a belt-positioning booster, along with their lap-and-shoulder belt, until the vehicle seat belt fits properly. This typically (but not always) happens when they are about 4’ 9” tall and are between 8 and 12 years of age.
  4. Children who have outgrown their booster seats should always use a lap-and-shoulder belt and not just a lap belt.
  5. Children younger than 13 years should sit in the back seat.

In addition to these recommendations, each state has child restraint laws in place. In New York State, all children under age 16 must be restrained in the car. They need to be in a car seat until they are at least 4 years old. After that, they must be in a “child safety restraint system” (aka booster seat) until they are 8 years old. The state regulations specifically recommend booster seats for children who are 8 years old but less than 4’9” or 100 lbs.  New York State has primary enforcement laws, which means you can get pulled over if the police notice that the children in your car are not restrained appropriately. They do not have to have another reason to stop you.

So, once you know what to do, how do you get it done? Unfortunately, there are so many different types, brands, and styles of car seats out there that the poor parents who are trying to keep their kids safe are left confused and overwhelmed! Once you figure out which car seat to get, then you have to figure out how to install it in your car and how to place your child in it correctly! There are lots of recommendations and advice for that too, but they are beyond the scope of this article.

The bottom line: The best car seat is the one that (1) fits the child, (2) fits in the vehicle, (3) is used correctly, and (4) is used every time. To help you figure this out, it’s wise to have your car seat inspected. Many police and fire departments have members who are certified child passenger safety technicians. To find one near you, you can go to or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.

Every year, over 2000 children die in the car accidents. Nearly 30,000 children are hospitalized for injuries sustained in car accidents. We adults—parents, grandparents, friends, pediatricians—need to do everything we can to lower these numbers and to keep our children safe when we drive them to school, to their activities, to the grocery store, to their doctor’s appointments. Keep them rear-facing for as long as possible, harnessed for as long as possible, in a booster for as long as possible and in the back seat for as long as possible!

Safe travels, everyone!

For more information, including local car seat check events, visit:

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Instead of Yelling, Try This!

By Maggie Zick, MS, CCLS
Child Life Specialist

One of my favorite classes in graduate school was Therapeutic Play Techniques for Child Life Specialists. I am not a play therapist, but I use therapeutic play techniques in my work as a child life specialist all the time. I also used a lot of these same techniques before I graduated, when I was working as a nanny in New York City.

Limit setting is one of the most effective and easiest techniques to use in the real world, which I learned from Garry L. Landreth’s book Play Therapy.  What do you do when your children are misbehaving? Yell? Appease them? Try to divert their attention? Some of these techniques might work some of the time; sometimes they’ll make things worse. What all of these techniques are missing is making your child feel heard. Children’s actions are not arbitrary. For a child who’s ability to communicate verbally is not up to par with yours, their actions speak for them. This happens very clearly in children’s play, but can be seen through everyday behavior.

Your child grabs a toy from another child. You yell at her and tell her that taking from her friends is not nice and that she should share. Now your child feels frustrated that she doesn’t have the toy she wanted and that she was not understood.

Your child hits his brother because he fell down. You tell your son not to hit his brother. The behavior may stop, but your son does not feel any better.

A better approach to unwanted behavior includes three easy steps.

1.) Empathize with your child’s feelings.

  • This helps your child feel heard and gives acceptance to her feelings. It is okay to let your child know she can feel mad without giving her permission to act on these feelings. If you don’t first express an acceptance of your child’s emotions, you might be making your child feel as if her emotions are not valid. Sometimes just empathizing with your child will satisfy her and she won’t feel the need to act on it.

2.) Set a limit.

  • Limits should be very clear so that your child understands what is and is not acceptable behavior. Try to keep your language positive and directed towards the behavior, not the child.

3.)  Give your child an acceptable alternative.

  • In the case of the child who takes a toy from another, you could say, “you really wanted that toy, but John is playing with it right now. How about you play with this truck.” For the child hitting his brother, you could respond by saying, “you’re really mad that you fell down, but your brother is not for hitting. You can hit this pillow instead.”

If these three steps don’t work, a fourth step exists: stating a final limit. Keep the language focused on the behavior, not the child. The child should know that they are not the problem, their behavior is. If your child keeps hitting his brother, try saying, “if you choose to keep hitting your brother, you choose to leave the room.”

No child is perfect and neither are techniques in dealing with their behavior. Every parent knows their children best and can tailor their parenting style to their individual child. As always, what works best for the child is going to be what works best for the parent and family.

Landreth, G. L. 2002. Play therapy: The art of the relationship (2nd ed.).  New York,
NY: Brunner-Routledge.


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Healthy Snacks for Kids

By Stacey Meneilly, RD, CDN, CNSC

Because a child’s body is still growing and developing, proper nutrition is crucial. Healthy snacks provide extra energy to fuel the body and can also provide essential vitamins and nutrients. Most children need two to three healthy snacks each day in addition to three meals. Smaller children’s snacks should consist of around 100 calories per snack, while more active teens may need around 300 calories per snack. It is important to pay attention to a child’s hunger cues.

With childhood obesity on the rise, it is necessary to minimize unhealthy snacks, such as cookies, candies, soda and potato chips that add calories while providing little in the way of nutrition. Encouraging healthy snacks for your children has long term benefits because what your child is eating now influences what or how they will eat later in life. Keep junk food out of the house.  If you don’t keep junk food on hand, your child wont be urged to eat it. It is also important to set a good example by choosing healthy snacks yourself.

Think of snacks as small meals. Choose foods from the various food groups, like fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy, lean meats, whole grains and healthy drinks.

Planning ahead can help you make healthy choices. It may be helpful to make a grocery list ahead of time based on snack selections.

Here is a list of some healthy snack choices that don’t require a tremendous amount of planning:

Ants on a Log: simply spread peanut butter on celery and place raisins on top. It’s simple and kids love it.

 Guacamole with whole grain crackers or veggie spears: use whole grain crackers or vegetables like carrots, peppers or zucchini slices to dip in guacamole

 Apples and Peanut Butter: Spread peanut butter on apple slices

 Edamame: Available fresh or frozen, these soy beans are easy to cook

 Pita Pizza Pocket: Cut whole wheat pita in half. Fill each pita half with pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese and pepperoni slices or veggies. Microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.

Pita Chips with Hummus: Use pita chips to dip with your hummus.

Half of a sandwich/wrap with a glass of milk: Prepare a half of a turkey, ham or peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat and serve with a glass of skim or low fat milk.

Greek or Regular Yogurt: served with mixed fruit

Bowl of Whole Grain Cereal: with low fat or skim milk

Fresh Fruit Smoothie: In a blender mix low fat yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit and ice cubes.

Fresh Fruit Kabobs: Place banana, pineapple, kiwi orange and other fruit slices on skewers for a yummy snack.

Raw Veggies and low fat dip: Broccoli, cucumber, tomato, and carrots go well with a low fat ranch dip.

Whole Wheat Pretzels with Peanut Butter

Deviled Eggs:  Try this delicious recipe below for your whole family.
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise
1/4 C nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
paprika to garnish

Place the eggs in a pot and add just enough cold water so that they are fully covered, and put on high heat. Cover and bring them to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let them sit, still covered, for 12 minutes. 
Allow the eggs to cool, peel them and cut them lengthwise.
Place the whites on a plate and the yolks in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients (except for the paprika) to the yolks in the bowl, and mash it all together.
Once mixed, spoon the mixture back into the empty egg whites.  Top with a sprinkle of paprika if desired.

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Return to School and Play After Concussion

By Brian P. Rieger, PhD
Chief Psychologist & Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, SUNY Upstate Medical University
Director, Upstate Concussion Center

Concussion is a common injury in children, and can cause physical, mental, and emotional symptoms that typically last for about a week.  Sometimes symptoms will last longer, especially if proper steps are not taken to prevent complications.  While a child is still experiencing concussion symptoms, it is important to 1) avoid re-injury, and 2) avoid over-exertion, both physical and mental.

Common Concussion Symptoms






Balance problems

Blurred vision

Sensitivity to light & sound

Feeling tired all the time

Dazed or confused

Difficulty concentrating

Memory problems


Trouble reading

Getting irritated easily

Feeling more sad or anxious

Easily overwhelmed

Personality changes

 Sports concussion has received a lot of research and media attention lately, but the basic guidelines for return to play after concussion actually haven’t changed much in the last decade.  After suspected concussion, an athlete should immediately be removed from athletic activity and should undergo medical evaluation.  If a diagnosis of concussion is confirmed, then a period of rest and reduced activity is recommended until the symptoms go away, followed by a gradual increase in physical activity.  If headache, fatigue, or other symptoms return after physical exertion—which is not uncommon—then it signals that the brain may not be fully recovered.   When a child is able to engage in vigorous activity without return of symptoms, then he or she eligible to return to all sports and physical activities.

Return to school after concussion has received much less attention than return-to-play, but is certainly no less important.  Many student-athletes and their parents are unaware of the possible academic effects of concussion, such as trouble focusing in class, increased headaches from reading or doing math problems, or trouble keeping up with schoolwork due to getting tired more easily and needing a lot more rest.  Crowded hallways, bright classrooms, and noisy cafeterias can also worsen symptoms, which in turn will reduce the student’s ability to learn.

To help students recover and keep up with their learning after concussion, a number of academic accommodations can be put in place such as rest breaks during the day, extra time on tests, and reducing the amount of homework.  As with return-to-play, return-to-learn should involve a gradual increase in academic activity that is guided by the student’s symptoms.  If the headache, dizziness, or other symptoms are worsening over the course of the school day, then the student is most likely doing too much.

For more information about the academic consequences of concussion as well as suggested academic accommodations, you can check out our Concussion in the Classroom brochure and video online at:

A concussion occurs when a blow or jolt to the head disrupts the normal functioning of the brain.  The immediate symptoms of concussion can be frightening, especially for parents who observe their children acting confused or having trouble following a conversation.  Thankfully, most children will recover from concussion in a matter of days or weeks, with no long-term consequences.   A gradual return to physical and mental activity is recommended after concussion, as symptoms allow.  If symptoms last longer than 2-3 weeks, or if there is a history of multiple concussions, then specialized care in a comprehensive concussion program should be considered.

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Who Do You Ask For Health Information?

librarian at computerBy Mary Laverty, Family Resources and Services Coordinator

One of the missions of the Family Resource Center (FRC) in Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is to provide accurate, authoritative pediatric health information to families in our community. After reading the Peds to Parents blog, Death by Misprint by Gail Banach, I started to think about all the health information questions patients and parents have asked me since I joined Upstate six months ago. Last week, the parents of one of our patients came to the Family ResourceCenter with questions. They told me their child’s doctor suggested they come in for more information about their child’s illness. Using some of the online sources supplied by Upstate Health Science Library, I was able to send them home with a hard copy of health information for their child and a web address for a reliable source of accurate health information for their future questions. The week before, a doctor asked me to go visit the family of another pediatric patient to offer help in finding some health information. Our pediatric chaplain asked me to do the same thing later that week. So, with iPad in hand, I was off to help these parents. In addition to helping parents and patients at the Children’s Hospital, I have been able to offer assistance to families outside GCH including the parent who called with a health related question and the grandmother who asked about juvenile diabetes at a recent Upstate sponsored story time outreach program.

Mark Twain and Gail Banach are right, “Be careful reading health books, you may die from a misprint.” Just imagine what Mark Twain would have said about health information on Google! Rest assured you and your questions about health information are not alone on the web.

From your home, office, school or camp, you are just a phone call (315-464-4410) away from our free services to help you locate trustworthy authoritative pediatric health information. Your phone call will be answered by one of our excellent FRC circulation desk staff members. They will ask for your name, phone number, or email address along with your health information questions.  Another option to connect you to our high quality health information is to email the Family Resource Center ( ). Your email is sent directly to our pool of information specialists. An email will automatically be sent to you to let you know we have received your question. Then we go to work finding the health information you requested. We can provide you with information by phone, email, or snail mail.

If you are more interested in bookmarking a reliable source of health information on the Web to search yourself, the FRC web page ( supported by the Upstate Health Sciences Library is the one.

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What is Child Life?

by Margaret Nellis, Child Life Manager, MS CCLS

child life group
Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital Child Life Team

Parents and children all interact with the health care system—it could be a visit to the doctor, a visit to the pediatric emergency room, or a planned hospitalization due to surgery. How a child copes with that experience depends on the health care provider who cares for him or her at that time and of course, how you as the parent or caregiver is prepared for that doctor visit or hospital stay.

A child relies on the provider and you for comfort. For a child, the excessive anxiety and stress related to illness, separation from family, friends and school during hospitalization, and medical encounters can be emotionally damaging and interfere with the child’s response to medical treatment and care. Major interruptions in a child’s life can foster dependency and reduce self-esteem and may also jeopardize the child’s growth and development. Through the use of play and other forms of communication, a Child Life Specialist helps reduce the stress and enable children and caregivers to cope with these experiences.

At Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, the Child Life Specialists work as members of an interdisciplinary team, which may include doctors, nurses, social workers, therapists, and many more helping hands. Collaboration with the team allows Child Life Specialists to advocate for your child’s needs as well as the needs of your family. A Child Life Specialist wants to help make your family’s experience at the hospital a positive one. The child life staff members work with children of all ages, from newborns to teens, and throughout the hospital from outpatient clinics and the emergency department to inpatient units and surgery areas. They work directly with you and your child to help relieve tension, express concerns and fears, and allow you to feel more in control of the hospital experience or clinic visit.

So you may be wondering…

What exactly can Child Life Specialists do for my child and my family?

• Explain a diagnosis or treatment in words your child or teen can understand
• Create a coping plan for your child to use during a medical test or procedure
• Offer support during and after medical procedures
• Use age appropriate play and educational tools to help your child understand what is going on and provide ways to express feelings to foster a sense of control
• Work with the medical staff to assess your child’s unique needs
• Offer bereavement support to help families and siblings cope with death or loss
• Provide you with information on child development and the effects of health care experiences
• Advocate for your needs as a parent and help you get the answers you need so you can best support your child

When should I ask for a Child Life Specialist?

When your child or teen:
• Has a medical procedure that is challenging for him/her
• Shows significant changes in behavior
• Experiences long or repeated hospital stays
• Needs help to understand and process what is going on
• Has a difficult time coping with his/her hospitalization
• Faces a life altering or life threatening illness
• Worries about going to the doctor or getting a shot

You, as a parent or caregiver can ask a pediatrician or nurse for a referral to a child life specialist if you believe your child could benefit from child life services or if you as the caregiver would like to learn more about resources that you could use at home to prepare your child for a doctor visit or upcoming surgery. If your child is hospitalized, the child life specialist on your child’s hospital unit will visit you and your child to assess his/her needs. A referral will not be needed and there is no charge for child life services.

Child life services are endorsed by the Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following information is an excerpt from the AAP policy on Child Life Services:

“The child life specialist focuses on the strengths and well-being of children while promoting their optimal development and minimizing the adverse effects of children’s experiences in health care or other potentially stressful settings.”
(Pediatrics vol.118, No.4, Oct 2006)

Child Life Specialists hold bachelors and/or master’s degrees in child life, child development, education, psychology or a related field. Required internships provide special training in the needs of hospitalized children of all ages. Child Life Specialists are certified through the Child Life Council. To learn more about the Child Life Profession visit If you would like to know more about the child life services available at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital in Syracuse, visit us at

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