We are aware of the special needs of our patients, and address these issues by involving members of our Child Life, Social Work, Psychology, and School Liaison Programs. By paying attention to such issues, it is hoped that we can avoid or rapidly identify problems, and begin interventions in a timely manner. We include the entire family in the process, thus allowing siblings and parents to participate in the child's care.
School and education are extremely important, and we aim to keep children active in these activities during treatment. Our educational liaisons will even visit the child's school if necessary. The concern continues after the child completes their treatment, as we know that many patients will develop difficulties with hearing, learning, attention, memory, and endocrine function. When appropriate, referrals are made to Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy, as well as to Endocrinology and other medical services.
Virtual High School
The Institute for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disoders is a participant in the VHS Collaborative.
Child Life / Creative Arts Therapy
Patients have the opportunity to receive therapy individually and/or in groups, both as outpatients or inpatients. All interventions are conducted with sensitivity to unique individual, family, and cultural features.
Therapeutic modalities include child life, art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy which help children meet the challenge of coping with chronic, life-threatening medical illness.
The team's focus is on normal development across emotional, social, and psychological areas, highlighting the child's understanding of their illness and its treatments.
A wide variety of services are offered, including:
Outpatient creative arts therapy groups for children and siblings of all ages.
Inpatient individual and group creative arts and child life therapy
Preparation for medical procedures and other treatment-related concerns
Intensive individual therapy to promote positive adjustment throughout treatment
Developmentally-based creative arts therapy evaluation
The team also collaborates on research projects and works closely with the psychosocial staff on clinical and therapeutic treatment goals.
The child life/creative arts therapy team is comprised of Master's Degree level creative arts therapists (dance/movement therapists, art therapists, music therapists) and child life specialists.
During various phases of treatment, the nature and frequency of therapeutic contact may change, depending upon the unique needs of each child.
Various forms of creative arts therapy assessment and intervention are utilized to help children cope with the demands of medical illness, along with goal-specific child life preparation for procedures, tests, and treatments.
The intensity of therapeutic intervention changes over time as children become medically stable, psychosocial stressors decrease, and adjustment and reintegration into normative routines occur. Sustaining trust and rapport, however, remain a priority. Children are encouraged to join our psychosocial support group programs to reinforce adaptation and socialization.
Music Therapy is used in a myriad of ways to help children address issues related to illness. Sensitively improvised music can help a frightened or young child feel less threatened and can initiate the establishment of a trusting rapport.
Music can help reduce a patient's level of isolation by including the family or medical staff in sessions, thereby increasing positive interactions and a further sense of trust.
Crucial developmental tasks can be supported and guided through individualized musical activity and the child's natural impulses toward spontaneity and play can be expressed.
At The Institute for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders, improvisational music therapy is used to engage, empower, and focus children undergoing painful medical procedures, as well as to provide a forum for processing their experiences afterward. Through active songwriting and improvisation, children are encouraged to relate their experiences and explore their feelings within a creative structure which is both constructive and effective.
Music therapy can help a child more effectively adjust to their illness and the rigors of treatment and maintain a more positive relationship with the medical environment.
Dance Movement Therapy
Dance/movement therapy utilizes the creative and expressive qualities of dance and movement to provide safe and constructive ways to identify, communicate, and manage feelings.
It can be an effective therapeutic modality in addressing the many bodily changes and experiences that occur in illness and treatment. Children can gain an increased sense of confidence in the abilities of their bodies, and learn ways to relax. Movement provides a playful opportunity for tension-release; and emotional issues can be addressed more symbolically when words are not enough, or when the patient is primarily nonverbal.
Techniques such as guided imagery, drama and creating stories can accompany the sessions to provide a concrete integration of the child's difficult experiences, thus increasing a sense of mastery, vitality and normalcy.
Dance/movement therapy offers opportunities to experience the body in more positive and pleasurable ways, when possible. Nonverbal behaviors relay vital information regarding a person's personality traits, interactive style, and mode of communication. The dance/movement therapist may work with props, music, movement games, play, metaphoric, and verbal interventions to enhance the movement experience and to facilitate awareness and understanding. Body movement interventions then provide the opportunity to convert personal issues into shared actions that promote reflection, communication, adaptation and adjustment.
Even as children lie inactive in their hospital beds, their imagination is very active. Art Therapy explores and gives life to the imagination through a multitude of methods and materials.
The art allows children to express their feelings by creating a visual image of their fears, anger, frustrations, and fantasies. An Art Therapist can then facilitate the communication of these feelings to the child's family and to the medical team.
The art can also be used as an assessment tool to provide further information about the child's response to illness and treatment. Art Therapy provides tactile stimulation, distraction from pain, an opportunity for choice, and a means to achieve mastery. Art is a familiar language for all children, and, for the hospitalized child, often what cannot be said in words can be said through images.
Social Work Services
Social workers assess and address the needs of every family. An initial assessment includes, but is not limited to, determining the structure of the family, coping styles, and patterns of communications with other family members, the medical staff, and the community.
Throughout the duration of treatment, a social worker tracks the family and provides a variety of services, including crisis intervention, problem solving, supportive counseling, and insight-oriented psychotherapy. Services are performed on an individual basis and/or in supportive group sessions for patients and parents. Individual and/or group bereavement services are available for parents and caretakers as needed. Social workers also provide referrals to a variety of community resources to help the family meet the financial burden placed upon them.
Pediatric psychologists provide a wide range of mental health services for patients and family members. These include evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of various psychological syndromes related either directly or indirectly to the disease and its treatment. Cognitive, academic, neuropsychological, social and emotional/behavioral functioning are evaluated. Based on these diagnostic assessments, a number of psychotherapeutic strategies are available, including insight-oriented, cognitive-behavioral, social learning, and educational modalities including cognitive remediation. All services are provided by highly skilled, doctoral-level faculty, who are also involved in numerous research studies.
L.E.A.R.N. (Liaison for Effective Academic Resource and Networking) is a program that provides educational guidance to children with cancer and blood disorders. The goal is to share information as well as provide practical assistance to families and school personnel regarding the impact of the disease on a child's educational development. Families no longer have to face school challenges alone.
School may be one of the last things to be considered when a child is diagnosed with cancer or a serious blood disorder. However, it often provides reassurance through everyday events such as homework assignments and peer relationships. L.E.A.R.N. is sponsored by the Tomorrows Children's Fund and is available to all families followed by the Institute for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders.
LIAISON Consultation with families and school personnel regarding children's academic development is an essential component of this program. This may include obtaining school records, securing tutoring services while a child is unable to attend school, attending Child Study Team meetings, or working directly with the child's teacher to design specific classroom modifications that assist in addressing the child's academic needs. Communication between family, healthcare providers, and school staff is essential in order to maintain the flexibility that is necessary to meet the changing needs of the student within the classroom setting.
ADVOCACY From the time a child is diagnosed with cancer or a blood disorder, special considerations need to be made to address individual educational needs. At times, parents and teachers are unsure of the specific needs of the child because of changes that occur on a daily basis. As advocates the Educational Liaisons assist parents and school staff in determining the child's educational needs and work with them to implement the necessary modifications.
LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF TREATMENT Advances in childhood cancer therapies have greatly enhanced long-term survival and rates of cure. Despite these breakthroughs, certain cancer therapies can affect a child's academic performance. It is essential that parents and educators become aware of potential learning effects associated with certain cancer treatments that may be subtle and appear slowly over time. The Educational Liaisons assist in the early detection of treatment-related learning problems through regular contact with parents and teachers. If necessary, more thorough psychoeducational testing will be pursued in order to assist in the development of an appropriate educational plan. Further assistance can be provided when students are ready to explore employment opportunities or college programs.
Advocacy on behalf of families within school districts
Consultation on school placement and use of resources
Staff education about disease, treatments, and related effects
Referral for diagnostic educational evaluations
Consultation with patients through the Cure & Beyond Program, stem cell transplant service, Neuro-oncology, and hematology programs
Coordination of tutoring services for children in the outpatient clinic as well as the inpatient oncology service
Use of technology to keep students connected to their classrooms
Camp Dream Street
Camp Dream Street is a week-long day camp for patients of the Institute for Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disordrs, their siblings and patients at other healthcare facilities.
Since the program's inception in 1990, children have enjoyed a variety of camping activities in the warm, open environment of the Jewish Community Center (JCC) in Tenafly. Recent participants have enjoyed cooking, arts and crafts, yoga, karate, and their favorite pastime – swimming. For many of our participants, this was their first or only day camp experience.
Camp Dream Street is a valuable experience for caregivers as well as children, as it provides respite for many parents who need time to recharge after taking care of their sick children.
The day camp experience is always filled with fun and laughter, as our counselors and volunteers from area high schools and colleges bond with the campers. The staff of Camp Dream Street, the doctors, nurses, social workers, and child life therapists, all look forward to this special week to see their patients and patients' siblings in a new light – as youngsters enjoying camp. If you are interested in volunteering at Camp Dream Street, please contact the JCC on the Palisades at 201-569-7900, ext. 381.
Psychosocial Support Groups
Patients and their families who seek support and wish to better understand the elements of illness and treatment can participate in these ongoing special programs, which were formed to give children and adolescents with cancer and blood disorders a chance to talk about their illness in a comfortable setting. Each family member will have the opportunity to discuss the problems that affect his or her daily life, and, with new friends, find solutions.
Braves – Teen creative arts therapy support group
This group provides opportunities for creative expressions through therapeutic group activities, dance/movement/music therapies and group discussions. Periodic trips and events provide opportunities for social interaction for teens with cancer.
Pediatric Oncology Support Group for Parents
The group provides a supportive environment where parents and caregivers can share feelings and concerns about their child’s cancer experience and its impact on their family.
Sickle Cell Support Program
The Sickle Cell Support Group program is a unique program offered to help the entire family cope with sickle cell disease. There are separate groups for school age children, teens, siblings, and parents. Each family member has the opportunity to discuss the problems they face as a result of the illness. Periodically there are family sessions and special events.
Bereavement Support Program
The Bereavement Support Program consists of parent and sibling weekly support groups to help them deal with their loss. Parents provide support to each other while they move through their grief process. Siblings meet others like themselves who have lost a sibling. Creative arts are used to help the children express themselves.
Parent and significant other support groups are held once a month. These two groups aim to help the parents and their loved ones cope with their loss. The significant other group is for grandparents, boy/girl friends, young adult siblings, etc.
Ninja Power is a non-contact martial arts program to help children with cancer or a serious blood disorder and their siblings cope better and increase their self-esteem.
A family activity that encourages parents, patients, and siblings to create memories.