Child life specialists: ‘The study of smiles’

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It’s just a home away from home for kids seeking to get better from some of the most tragic illnesses.

The University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital is also a training ground for the next generation of pediatric medicine providers.

Child Life graduate student assistant Olivia Trevino said, “This is a scary place, and it doesn’t have to be.”

Aly Noble and Olivia Trevino are in the study of smiles.

Trevino said, “Child Life Specialists bring the fun to the hospital, and we are known a lot for blowing bubbles and singing songs and playing games.”

In addition to the imagination of play, the two child life student assistance say the job they’re training for is also about a support system so not just the medical but emotional and developmental needs are fulfilled.

Child Life graduate student assistant Aly Noble said, “Giving them the opportunity to express their emotions and what they do through play is so important.”

But while they’re studying.

Trevino said, “We learn from our books of what a child life specialist or how to work with children coping with illness.”

The lesson they get by aiding the young patient’s recovery has come to teach them more than can be found in any book.

Trevino said, “All the silly little stresses in our life mean so little compared to what these kids are going through, and they really teach us to be better people and live with more joy.”

“Taught me so much about my own life and to be grateful for every second. Seeing these children, their strength and courage battling some of the toughest illnesses has taught me to be, enjoy every second of every day,” Noble said. 

Noble and Trevino said while this opportunity has provided them some magical moments, one college football tradition has come to define that time.

Noble said, “20 years down the road to be able to say that I was here when the wave started and I got to work with those patients that first saw the wave.”

It’s become a form of hope taking on a life of its own.

Trevino said, “We turn, and there’s like a group of 20 people waving up at the hospital after the first quarter, and it’s an away game, it was just so meaningful.”

That produces the best form of medicine.

Noble said, “See all of the smiles and the joy.”

There are about 20 students in the Child Life graduate program. 

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