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Promoting positive experiences for kids and families
We know it can be scary when your child needs to go to the hospital. UW Health Kids child life specialists help your child and family cope with any fears and anxieties.
Our team includes specialists trained in child and teen development. We explain medical procedures and diagnoses in an appropriate way for each child to understand for their age and development. We use play and other distractions to make your child’s time in the hospital as positive as possible.
When we work with teens, we empower them with tools and resources to create a coping plan for return to home and school. We also help teens as they transition to adult care.
Our services and tools
Where we work, what we provide
At American Family Children’s Hospital, UW Health Kids child life specialists work in most care settings. You’ll also find UW Health Kids child life specialists at East Madison Hospital.
Some places you’ll find us:
Diagnostic therapy center/radiation
Pediatric palliative care
Pediatric specialty clinics
We provide a wide range of activities, guidance, services and spaces to keep your child comfortable and relaxed and to support your family. They include:
Adjustment to hospitalization
Education and resources for difficult conversations with children
Memory making and legacy building
New diagnosis teaching
Pain control and comfort measures
Playrooms and teen lounges (24-hour)
Preparation for surgery
Sibling support and education
Special events and visitors
In-kind donations and supporting patients
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the best way to donate most needed in-kind items for our patients, is to refer to our listed Amazon and Target registries and have the items shipped directly to our hospital.
To access our AFCH Child Life Amazon online registry, go to the registry page and in the "find a Baby Registry" search bar, enter: "afch." Then select the registry listed as: afch.
If you select this option Amazon makes a donation equal to 0.5 percent of your purchase to our Child Life Department. Go to the Amazon Smile Program and select University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority as the charity organization.
To access our Target registry, go to the Target registry page and enter “afch” into the First Name and Last Name field search boxes click on the red "View Registry" button to view our registry items.
How to prepare for your child’s hospital visit
You can work with our child life team to prepare your child and family for a hospital stay or surgery. Steps you can take include:
Help your child understand what will happen with our teaching sheets (below)
Inform your child’s school and other groups about the upcoming hospital stay.
Request a hospital or surgery area tour.
Talk with your child and encourage questions.
Use the anesthesia mask and surgical caps from your surgery tour packet to practice wearing them at home.
What to bring
When your child needs to come to the hospital, be sure to pack familiar items to help your child feel more comfortable and at ease. You can bring:
Personal care items
Phone and phone charger
Photos of family and friends
Special books or games
Programs and spaces
What we do
We provide many programs and spaces to make the hospital experience more enjoyable for your child and family.
You can spend time together with your family and enjoy meals together.
Community groups donate meals several days a week. You can eat and talk with other families.
Our teachers help children in 4K through high school keep up with their school work.
We connect you to helpful resources as you care for a child diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder.
The Parent and Family Advisory Council strives to promote a positive, creative partnership to enhance relationships with the American Family Children's Hospital and the community.
Our team provides pet therapy for your child and family.
Your child and your family can access our 24-hour centers. We offer activities and play to meet the needs of children, teens and siblings.
We work with your child to ease anxiety about appearance-altering conditions or procedures.
We ease fears and help your child prepare for surgery. Watch our surgery preparation video. If you would like to talk with a child life specialist about how to prepare your child for surgery, call (608) 890-8296 or talk to a nurse in your child's clinic about how to connect with a child life specialist.
We offer interactive experiences for kids and their families.
We provide space and programming where your other children can interact with siblings of other patients.
We have many friendly volunteers who interact and play with patients and provide support to families.
Creating connections through music
Music is naturally engrained across various cultural affiliations, and the life span of all developmental ages. It can also access multiple areas of the brain simultaneous and therefore, can be inherently healing. Music therapy is an evidenced-based practice that uses individualized assessment and treatment plan to address a variety of your child’s goals, including:
Reducing stress and anxiety
Decreasing pain perception
Promote memory/legacy making
Normalizing the environment
Supporting functional motor, cognitive, or speech skills
Alternate engagement during medical procedures
Promote family connection and bonding
Music therapy sessions can vary from passively listening to actively creating and may include:
Music for relaxation
Listen and talking about music
Moving or dancing to music
Learning a new instrument
About our music therapist
Music therapists are trained health care professionals designated by the credential MT-BC. Music therapy is a bachelors entry level position from an accredited university, with 6-month full time internship and board certification exam. Others may pursue additional education with masters or doctoral in music therapy as well. For more information about music therapy education visit American Music Therapy Association or Certification Board for Music Therapists.
Where to find us
UW Health Kids child life specialists are located at American Family Children's Hospital and East Madison Hospital.