Reviewer: Gary B Kaniuk, Psy.D.(Cermak Health Services)
Description: This book describes the activities of a child life specialist, whose goal is to help children reach their potential by building upon their strengths and overcoming vulnerabilities while they are in the hospital.
Purpose: The purpose "is to assist in this process, drawing upon the expertise of leading figures in the field to help provide child life specialists, and other allied health professionals, with the knowledge and skills they will need to accomplish this important task."
Audience: Child life specialists and other allied health professionals are the intended audience. Dr. Thompson is dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at The College of New Rochelle and is past president of the Child Life Council. The 30 contributors are from the United States and Canada.
Features: The history of child life begins the book, starting in 1962 with Emma Plank's publication outlining the goals of a child life program. Chapter one defines child life as "the designated name of the professional service and its practitioners whose goals have been to help children engage and subdue fears, misconceptions, anger, and profound sadness that hospital experiences provoke, to protect and enhance their developmental integrity, and, whenever possible, use the experiences of illness and hospitalization to build strengths rather than compromise them." The book continues with theories that underlie child life including cognitive, Piagetian, social learning, and attachment. The authors stress the importance of the therapeutic relationship, communication, and family-centered care. They also address how to work with critical care situations and grieving children. There are good tables and clinical vignettes that illuminate the process. Chapter 12 on working with grieving children and families is interesting in the way it addresses the tasks of grieving and provides examples of traditional religious rituals. Chapter 16, which provides a global perspective, shows how these child life concepts and practices can be applied in various parts of the world.
Assessment: This book does a good job of describing the activities of a child life specialist and preparing one for work in this field. Because of the range of topics it addresses, the book can be useful for new or veteran child life specialists. This work is important for people working with children who are at a difficult point in their lives.