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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Playtime makes a comeback for child patients at Shands

Children kept in hospital isolation will soon have a program to help them stay socially active.

UF Health Child Life Program received one of seven national “Healing Power of Play” grants from the Mattel Children’s Foundation.

The $16,605 grant from the toy corporation organization goes directly to the Child Life Program to develop new programs for children who are not able to leave their hospital rooms to access play therapies.

These children may be in isolation due to particular illnesses that compromise their immune systems.

Mark Amox, administrator of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, said the application for the grant was turned in at the beginning of the Fall semester.

“The Mattel Foundation puts out requests for proposals from children’s hospitals across the country,” he said. “We’ve applied before, but this was the year they gave us the funding.”

With new programs available to them, patients will be able to stay in their rooms where different tools and techniques are brought to them.

The grant will be implemented this winter and will provide patients with therapeutic interactions through the use of play kits, a “mobile playroom” and a multisensory cart.

Fifty to 70 percent of patients at the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital are kept isolated in their rooms. The hospital works with parents and families who are actively involved in their childrens’ ability to remain children, Amox said.

“Any time a child is in the hospital, we know that the more we can distract them from a stressful environment and provide a more routine life experience, we know that that aids in the child’s ability to heal,” he said.

One of the hospital’s biggest challenges is managing the expectations of parents.

“If they have a child that is infectious or contagious,” he said. “Then we cannot allow those kids to be around other kids. That’s where things like these programs can help those kids cope with their hospital stay.”

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Jaimin Patel, a 22-year-old UF biology senior, has volunteered at Shands since his sophomore year and said volunteering in the pediatrics ward was a memorable experience.

“It’s sad to see some of those kids not be able to play with other kids their own age or use the tools that are available to the others,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 12/2/2014]

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