After many months of research and outreach, Morganne has assisted in implementing a family training plan in applied behavioral analysis. Mariana Torres-Viso, Psy. D., of the Center for Children with special needs, has trained two local Peruvian psychologists in behavioral analysis, while Morganne assisted in recruitment, securing local partner organizations, and meeting with families. The autism project is now operational, and the psychologists she helped train will meet with families as part of a 12-week screening and treatment plan. The training includes teaching parents how to use positive reinforcement and how to better play with and relate to their children. Morganne will monitor the screenings and analyze the results of the initiative using qualitative surveys.
While waiting for approval to continue with the autism project, Morganne also worked on a pediatric malnutrition ultrasound project. Using her child life training and conversational Spanish, Morganne was a key member of the team as they went door to door with a portable ultrasound machine to screen children for malnutrition. Thinking as a child life specialist, Morganne purchased age-appropriate toys and suggested the team wear clothing that would put parents and children at ease. She also used a dinosaur stress ball and bubbles to distract and calm children who were frightened by the calipers used to measure skin thickness.
Although Morganne is not currently working as a child life professional in a clinical setting, her child life skills and experiences have improved the implementation of her public health project. Morganne credits her stints in fast-paced environments like surgery and the emergency department with her ability to think on her feet and figure out quickly “where you’re needed, where you’re not, how to be helpful.” Dr. Gilman has observed how the child life skills and mindset Morganne brings to public health outreach has positively affected the healthcare experience for patients and families as well as the quality and quantity of data required for their outreach and research:
“Morganne makes things happen. She brings enthusiasm and pride in her work to our projects. She has come with a background as a child life specialist on our team and that has paid excellent dividends for our research projects. She has trained our field workers so that children are happy to cooperate with our non-invasive procedures. Also, she was instrumental in changing the environment of the field office for testing children with autism. It now functions better, with decreased distraction and better testing results. I think it’s important in all research, especially global health to have teams of professionals and students that are multidisciplinary, and the success of bringing her on these projects really shows that it works. She has become a very valuable part of our research team.”
According to Morganne, “There’s definitely a place in public health for child life specialists just as much as there’s a place for child life specialists in the community.” Although she found clinical child life work fulfilling, her work experiences in Baltimore and Washington, DC led her to focus on the power and primacy of the family and community. Despite a shift toward community-based work, Morganne makes good use of her clinical child life skills by noting what might be potentially scary or offsetting to children and families and adjusting environments and procedures accordingly. Her suggestions improve care for children and families as well as the quality of data and the ease of data collection.
After she graduates, Morganne plans to implement community programs in pediatrics for underserved populations. Although her name tag may not say Child Life Specialist, Morganne hopes to represent the child life community by bringing her training in the psychosocial care of children to all aspects of her work. She believes any opportunity to increase the visibility of child life and demonstrate its value across a variety of professions and work environments is a positive step forward for the profession.