Leah Stapleton - Child Life Specialist


Child Life Specialists are a fundamental aspect of our Pediatric and Hospice Care programs, working closely with patients, their families, and friends to enhance the quality of life for those dealing with life-altering illnesses.

We asked our Child Life Specialist, Leah to share one of her favorite activities she facilitates with her patients, and how it helps enhance the lives of her patients every day.

Hi Leah, please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Leah Stapleton and I’ve been with Community PedsCare since 2019. Child Life Specialists address the psychosocial concerns that often accompany healthcare experiences as well as stressful life events in the lives of children ages 0-21.

We help children focus on coping skills while minimizing the adverse effects of hospitalizations, health care encounters, and/or other potentially stressful experiences.

What is your favorite therapy to facilitate with PedsCare patients?

I love to use books to teach lessons and explore children's understanding. Even if we are only able to get through part of a book, I often provide books for caregivers to read at another time. I had a patient say, "just like in The Invisible String" while discussing a a heavy topic about death. Books help children compare their own experiences to those of book characters. There are many amazing resources out there now with various topics and representations of diversity. Like televisions or movies, to see yourself in a book is powerful.

How do you facilitate this therapy?

I like to pair reading books with an activity. Most people, including kids, tend to learn better while doing. One of my go-to activities is utilizing fishing line and beads to make bracelets. The fishing line represents the invisible bond of love that connects us all. This is a great activity that pairs well with the reading of The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst.

Another book I work with is Memory Jars by Vera Brosgol. This book focuses on memory making and legacy building. After reading the book, I have the child work on decorating a mason jars that holds the special memories they have of their loved ones.

Books often introduce the discussion of more complex topic by giving the child the opportunity to reflect on the memories and experiences they've lived through. They are able to discuss coping skills, various experiences and ideas. I tend to let the patients have as much choice as possible, giving them back autonomy.

What are you trying to achieve when facilitating this therapy?

My goal is to clarify any misconceptions the child might have, provide opportunities for autonomy, and create an educational environment where the child can learn coping skills.

Where do therapies fit within the Community PedsCare program?

Whether a child can read for themselves or enjoys being read to, books can be appropriate for a variety of developmental levels and diagnosis. Our patients often have very rare diagnosis. I think it's always nice to know that there is someone out there with similar struggles. "Normalizing" big emotions, difficult situations, and cognitive or physical differences can be a helpful coping strategy.

What brings you the most satisfaction when working with a patient and their family?

Knowing I helped a family - whether it was through teaching coping skills, medical play, or memory making activities. Knowing that I was a help in some small way is so gratifying. To be trusted by our families in some of the most difficult times is a privilege. I find myself learning more about the way in which I aspire to live my life than they learn from me.

Why do you enjoy being a Child Life Specialist?

I find great reward when I provide a helpful coping strategy that is later utilized at a medical appointment or that a book I utilized is later brought up in conversation. It's a sobering feeling when a family member expresses how meaningful a memory making piece is to them after a their loved one has passed. All these examples remind me that I am making a difference.


Meet Our Child Life Specialists

Click below to read the bios of other Child Life Specialist at Community Hospice & Palliative Care.