Play Therapy Week – Not just child’s play

During October, Children’s Hospitals around Australia celebrate Play Therapy month in recognition of the amazing work Play Therapists do with children every day.

The Women’s & Children’s Hospital Foundation is proud to provide funding and resources to support this initiative through our Arts in Health program at our own Women’s and Children’s Hospital (WCH) here in Adelaide.

Euan with mum, Luella.

Jill Newman from our Foundation says there is evidence to suggest that Play Therapy can speed up recovery rates and decrease sensitivity to pain.

“Working with a Play Therapist is often one of the few times that children in hospital get to make their own decisions because play time is their time,” Ms Newman said.

On, Tuesday 16 October during Play Therapy Week at the WCH, members of the team gave out goodie bags to patients and visitors with items for distraction and creativity to keep them entertained long after they have left the hospital.

Women’s and Children’s Health Network Chief Executive Officer, Lindsey Gough, says the team’s work is more than just child’s play.

“Play Therapists provide an incredibly important service for our hospital, working to distract and entertain young patients,” Ms Gough said.

“They not only keep our patients occupied and stimulated through long hospital stays, they also make the hospital less scary for those who might be anxious about their visit and help children cope with invasive procedures.

“The therapists work with children of all ages and with a number of different medical conditions, from chronically ill patients, those in palliative care, those with life changing injuries or those who are only with us for a short while.

“I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank their hard work, dedication and creativity that contributes to our proud history of caring for South Australian families.”

Dedicated Play Therapists are assigned to one of eight wards at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, with one therapist situated in the paediatric outpatient department, which can see up to 450 children each day.

Jack with Play Therapists, Kim and Georgie.

Senior Play Therapist, Marisa Salvati, says the WCH is unique in that it is the only hospital to use a ward-based approach, with Play Therapists elsewhere operating on a referral basis.

“Having our therapists dedicated to a ward means they are consistently there for the children, creating a special bond with our patients and their families” Ms Salvati says.

“It’s not unusual to find the children waiting for us when we arrive at work in the morning.”

The benefits programs such as Play Therapy has on the time children spend in hospital is not only great for patients, but also for siblings and waiting parents, providing a distraction from the usual hospital environment and waiting time.

The method each of the hospitals 10 Play Therapists use to entertain and distract a child varies across the wards. For long stay patients, often who are recovering from a traumatic incident, Play Therapist, Linda becomes a fixture in the lives of these children and their families. She is also know for making birthdays and rehabilitation milestones special for the children she cares for while they are in hospital.

Play Therapist, Leeza sees patients who don’t often come to hospital and are there for only a short period of time. She uses familiar activities like sand play and creative projects to help normalise the hospital experience.

And Kim, who looks after surgical patients, often those with serious injuries or burns, uses guided imagery with patients to help them cope with painful procedures.

The contribution made by our donors and supporters is priceless in relation to how many children and families have been impacted by the amazing and personalised treatment the Play Therapy team can provide. Making a difference every day through smiles and laughter.

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