Grant Will Fund Creation of Sensory-Sensitive Spaces

Loma Linda Children’s Hospital playrooms seek to be a safe, relaxing place for kids.

Linda Ha, Loma Linda University Health News
Grant Will Fund Creation of Sensory-Sensitive Spaces
One of five non-medical procedure playrooms at LLU Children's Hospital where children can enjoy arts, crafts, games, and movies. [Photo: Loma Linda University Health News]

Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital (LLUCH) in Loma Linda, California, United States, has been awarded a grant of nearly US$25,000 to create sensory-sensitive spaces for patients with specific sensory, developmental, and cognitive needs.

The grant from The Toy Foundation, in partnership with Children’s Hospital Association, will allow the hospital’s Child Life Services to create five sensory-sensitive play areas with accompanying items that promote a sense of stability and calmness. The items include weighted blankets and lap pads, music projectors, noise-canceling earmuffs, bubble tubes, and finger painting. These help children engage in listening techniques and provide an opportunity to focus or help children with intense auditory responses to tune out the chaotic noise of their surroundings and regroup. The items can also help de-escalate stressful situations when Child Life specialists are not available.

Frontiers in Psychology study shows children with neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism, Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Asperger’s syndrome, are more likely to have intense sensory response patterns, and it is critical to create safe sensory-friendly environments to improve treatment outcomes and create a more positive experience during their hospital stay.

“We are immensely grateful to The Toy Foundation and the Children’s Hospital Association for their generous grant and commitment to improving the lives of those in our community,” Joanna DeLeon, director of the LLU Children’s Hospital Foundation, said. “By creating sensory-friendly spaces, children with neurodevelopmental disorders can have a safe and comfortable environment where they can explore and engage in activities without feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated.”

The initiative is part of the Child Life’s STAR (Safety Trauma Assessment Resource) program, which helps patients and their families cope with hospitalization, procedures, surgeries, and grief through therapeutic play, education, and other interventions. 

The Toy Foundation, the charitable organization for the North American toy industry, created this grant to improve pediatric care with the healing power of play at hospitals that serve communities of the greatest need. The program is carried out in partnership with Children’s Hospital Association, which represents over 200 children’s hospitals across the nation.

“The extraordinary physical, emotional, and educational benefits of play are well documented,” Pamela Mastrota, executive director of The Toy Foundation, said. “We are delighted to support Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital in delivering the healing power of play to the children and families they serve every day.”

LLUCH is one of 19 children’s hospitals across the country selected for this grant out of 71 compelling proposals. The advanced medical needs of pediatric patients at LLU Children’s Hospital and the socio-economic background of more than 80 percent of their families place the hospital patient population among the most underserved in California, if not the country.

The Child Life Services program supports more than 100,000 patient visits per year across both inpatient and outpatient areas.

The original version of this story was posted on the Loma Linda University Health news site.

Linda Ha, Loma Linda University Health News