iPads Offer Distraction And Comfort For Pediatric Patients

Four-year-old Yohanialis Aravjo enjoys playing with the iPad on the Pediatric Unit. (Photo courtesy of NBIMC)

Four-year-old Yohanialis Aravjo enjoys playing with the iPad on the Pediatric Unit. (Photo courtesy of NBIMC)

NEWARK—In the past when a child needed a distraction from his or her anxiety about a particular medical procedure, Anne Reilly, would grab her Distraction Box, a colorful container with bubbles, light up toys, stress balls and other creative play items. Now the Director of Child Life at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center has a new prop for bringing the smiles back to young faces: the iPad.

“I have been doing this for 14 years and have not found anything as useful as the iPad for comforting children in a wide range of ages,” says Reilly. “It is one of the only tools that reach all age groups.”

Babies as young as eight-months-old enjoy an application (App) called “GiggleTouch,” which emits the joyful sound of a baby laughing. Older children can do everything from watch a movie to play an educational game or enjoy a puzzle game like Angry Birds. Teenagers can stay connected to friends through Facebook and feel less isolated during their visit, especially if it is for an extended period.

“When we have teenagers from foreign countries, like Haiti and Guatemala, staying on the Pediatric Unit, the iPad keeps them connected to friends and family when they can’t make many phone calls,” says Reilly.

Making Medical Treatment Less Scary
The iPad has also proven to be good medicine when children are recovering from complicated surgeries and procedures. After a cardiac catheterization or cardiac ablation procedure children are required to be still for six hours. This is a hard task for any youngster, and the iPad games and movies provide much needed quiet entertainment.

The device has been used to comfort children who are having dressing changes after a BROVIAC® catheter treatment, or the removal of chest tubes after open heart surgery, or who have to lie still for medical scans and photos used for intervential radiology therapies.

“The goal is to give children the best coping methods possible to get through a procedure,” says Reilly. “Many times the fear of pain is greater than the actual discomfort, so distraction is an important part of helping them to cope.”

Child Life currently has five iPads. Three of them were donated by the Spirit of Children Halloween stores. Another is planned for use in the Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

The last two were donated by The Verizon Foundation for the Pediatric Health Center (PHC) and Inpatient Unit. These iPads will be used to access Verizon’s on-line ‘Thinkfinity Community,’ a group of several literacy applications that cover a broad range of topics including reading, math and science. In the outpatient PHC the applications will be displayed on a large flat screen in the reading corner for all of the children and their parents to see. In the Inpatient Unit, tutors will use the applications to help young patients view school assignments, do research on-line and complete homework. At other times children will use the applications with the help of a Volunteer in the Health Center and a Child Life Specialist on the inpatient unit to further their literacy skills.

Best of all, the iPad is portable, making it the perfect tool for Child Life specialists to grab and go when a child has a procedure in any area of the hospital.

“We can even play Justin Bieber or any music while the child is also playing a game,” she adds. “It just makes the time go much fast if there is a long wait. We are thankful for any technology that helps us make the hospital stay as relaxed as possible.”

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