You may have noticed that we’re big supporters of Child Life staff here at Child’s Play. They have an enormous impact on the quality-of-life for young people in hospitals, and we strive to support them in any way we can.
Earlier this month, we attended the ACLP (Association of Child Life Professionals) Child Life Conference in Washington DC, which gave us a chance to meet and speak with Child Life Professionals from around the world. This provided us with a great opportunity to share our knowledge about therapeutic uses of gaming and technology. Even better, we were able to meet many international Child Life Professionals who were unaware that our programs extend worldwide and were excited to join our network.
Over the three days of the conference, we gave away 115 XBox 360s to 27 organizations. Every single one of those consoles is going to provide solace, entertainment, and relief to a young person soon, and every single one of them was made possible thanks to donors like you.
Naturally, we also had time to play some games! We’ve spoken often on this blog about how VR can be a wonderful therapeutic tool, but nothing compares to being able to demonstrate this in person. Visitors to our booth were able to engage in lightsaber based dance frivolity with Beat Saber, cause culinary Mayhem in Fruit Ninja VR, and swim underwater with sharks in Shark Cage VR. This was not only a lot of fun, but also gave us the opportunity to explain the impact and potential uses of VR to the people most able to make good use of it.
We also hosted Frank Lovato, Jr. from Equisizer and Leanne Chadwick from Therapeutic Riding Inc. They’re working together with gamestartschool.org to create On The Trail VR, a game that allows children to experience the therapeutic benefits of horse riding without ever needing to leave the hospital.
The Executive Director of Child’s Play, Travis Eriksen, moderated the Technology & Child Life: Visioning the Future panel with GameChanger Charity & ZOTT. The panel helped to illustrate and explain the many different technologies available to help support patients. With applications ranging from education, entertainment, socialization, and pain management, the field can seem overwhelming. This panel gave attendees vital tools to help them analyze current bodies of research and understand the implications that these technologies can have on the well being of patients. Technology is going to provide huge benefits to the Child Life profession in coming years, and this panel invited its attendees to help envision that future.
We teamed up with Game Changer Charity as part of our Gamers Give Back tour to provide a shuttle service for all the Child Life professionals in attendance, letting them see the sights of the National Mall as a thank you for all the work they do to improve the lives of their patients.
Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth! We’re missing DC already and can’t wait to see you all again next year and share all the developments in therapeutic tech that the intervening months bring. Special thanks, of course, go to our donors, who make our mission possible and give Child Life staff across the world the new tools and knowledge that they need to improve the lives of the children in their care.
Every day, the life of a child is improved immeasurably by the generosity of Child’s Play donors. We recently received a letter from the mother of a patient at Dell Children’s about the impact that our grant program had on her son’s quality of life during a serious illness. She was kind enough to allow us to share that story with you:
“I wanted to send a huge thank you for your company and the service y’all give to sick children.
My 7 year old son was diagnosed with T-cell Leukemia on Christmas Eve and it has been a whirlwind. (He had a pic line until recently and now he has a chest port.)
My son emotionally shuts down at the hospital. Everything has been scary and painful for him. After a few attempts of accessing his chest port, we realized that we couldn’t keep holding him down while he screamed in fear of the access.
One of the workers suggested trying your VR program at the next visit. We were hopeful but unsure if it would help.
BUT it did help. No more screaming. No more holding him down. No more extreme fear. It is almost a complete 180 from before the VR.
I cried!!! This is a beautiful service and my child needed the help so badly so as not to continue to traumatize him further.
Thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
To help support more programs like this, you can make a reoccuring donation here.
At Child’s Play, we’re passionate advocates for the importance of Child Life Specialists in hospitals. Hospitals can be a scary place for a child, and Child Life Specialists play a crucial role in improving quality-of-life for children who are often in the most difficult situation of their lives. One of the challenges in this important work is time. A CLS with a full patient load is likely to find it difficult to find time to research the latest tools and technologies available, let alone keep up with cutting-edge developments in the latest games! Thankfully for Children’s Hospital Colorado, we were able to step in and help out.
Thanks to the generosity of our donors and fundraisers, we were able to offer Children’s Hospital Colorado a grant to fund a full-time Gaming Technology Specialist. This position was quickly filled by the eminently skilled Michael Kundrat, and we were able to siphon off some of his time to talk about what the job looks like.
What Does a Gaming Specialist Do?
Child Life staff are, by necessity, often focused more on school-age children, so a specialist like Michael is able to offer valuable help to older children and teens who may need more diverse and complex entertainment. Before taking up this position, he worked as an instructor at Gamestart, teaching young people skills that run the gamut of technologies from programming to 3D modeling and printing. Combined with a lifetime of experience as a gamer, Michael was in the perfect position to take on this role.
The power of gaming in improving quality-of-life for patients is enormous, and a great deal of Michael’s time is spent researching the latest technologies and methods to achieve this. On the most basic level, playing games together is a great way to get kids out of their rooms and talking to each other, alleviating the boredom and loneliness that can set in during a hospital stay. Newer technologies, such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, can have a truly transformative effect.
The Technologies That Transform a Hospital Stay
Google Earth VR is a particularly popular program, freeing patients from the confines of the hospital ward and allowing them to travel the Earth and see all the amazing sights that it has to offer. The sense of control that comes from this unfettered exploration is sorely needed when a patient has been bedridden for days, weeks or even months.
Virtual Reality art programs like Tilt Brush and Medium allow patients to experience a truly immersive creative outlet, creating art and sculptures in 3D space that would cost hundreds of dollars of materials to create in real life. The boundless potential of these creative tools opens them up to people with no artistic experience, knowing that any mistakes or missteps they make can be undone in an instant.
Many patients, of course, suffer from restricted mobility, so Michael comes prepared with games that can be enjoyed by anyone. Eagle Flight is a great example; a game that allows a player to explore the skies of Paris as an Eagle, using only small head tilting movements.
The fun and creativity of VR is one thing, but hospitals are currently experimenting with the use of VR and AR as pain management tools. A burn patient who has to undergo regular, painful dressing changes can turn that ordeal into an opportunity to explore a new world, and research is currently underway to explore new ways that these technologies can be used to manage acute and chronic pain.
Your Help Makes All This Possible
Child Life staff have a difficult and vital job that makes an enormous difference to the lives of their patients. Having a specialist like Michael available allows them to make the best use of the technology at their disposal, and his research and expertise keeps them on top of the latest developments. If you’d like to get involved in Child Life, either as a career or just to help out, Michael recommends contacting your local hospital and seeing what volunteer positions they have available so that you can learn the ropes.
Michael’s position at Children’s Hospital Colorado wouldn’t be possible without the grant from Child’s Play, and that grant wouldn’t be possible without the help of our donors and fundraisers. Donating to Child’s Play makes a huge difference to hospitals, both by making this amazing technology available and by allowing them to fund the staff to make use of it. If you think this work is as important as we do, please consider making a one-off or recurring donation.