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Video Puts Childhood Diagnoses in Perspective

News Feature
Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Social worker Joanne Tramontini, student Gina McAfee, parent Barbara Burke, professor Emily Matheson, and physiotherapist Shelly Tiangco in the Children’s Treatment Centre waiting room at Health Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord.

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When a child is diagnosed with a medical condition or exceptionality, parents meet a team of specialists offering different kinds of help. Barbara Burke’s son, Bennett, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was 13 months old. “At the time, I was completely overwhelmed,” she said.  “I had no idea what the diagnosis meant, and was quickly introduced to a range of therapists, doctors and educators at the Children’s Treatment Centre. Since then, I’ve received a lot of support, and it’s made all the difference for Bennett.” Grateful for the expertise offered at Health Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord, Burke is featured in a video that explains the process to parents whose children will receive treatment, explaining different types of equipment used by various experts that work with children.

The video is the brainchild of Emily Matheson, a professor in Cambrian’s Early Childhood Education program. She explained that while the video can alleviate stress on parents of children who have received a diagnosis, it’s also a great tool in the classroom. “Many of our Early Childhood Education students are visual learners,” she said. “For example, when our students can see and hear therapists teaching a child to use specialized equipment, it has a more powerful impact on them than reading about it or seeing a diagram in a textbook.  Students immediately see a connection between the child and the specialist, and they see the role that a social worker, occupational, physio-, or speech and language therapist can play. Similarly, parents whose children will be undergoing that type of therapy will learn about what to expect.” Matheson also explained that the video will show students how “early childhood educators support parents and families, not just the children themselves.”

Student Gina McAfee agreed that the video will have a profound impact on students and parents alike. “Unless you have direct experience with the Children’s Treatment Centre, you may not know about the range of services available,” she said.  “As an early childhood educator (ECE), you work with children in a variety of settings, with different exceptionalities. It really helps to see and understand what other experts are doing with the child, during the cycle of care.”

McAfee has worked at Walden Daycare for 17 years, and is now a supervisor for off-site programs. She’s earning her ECE diploma at Cambrian with funding from the provincial government, so that she can gain credentials necessary to allow her to continue working in her field. “It was daunting at first to return to school as a mature student,” said McAfee. “But, I love working with children, and the education I’ve received at Cambrian was over and above what I received in university when I attained my degree.” The provincial government has mandated that all early childhood educators attain professional certification by 2015.

The video will be screened for ECE students in class at Cambrian College and also for parents in the waiting room at the Children’s Treatment Centre at Sudbury’s Health Sciences North/Horizon Santé-Nord. It’s also available online on Cambrian’s YouTube Channel. It was produced by Cambrian College’s eDome.

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