SpellBound: Helping Children Cope with Medical Procedures Using Augmented Reality

You know that moment when you watch a child see or do something for the very first time that absolutely fascinates them? You watch them captivated in the experience, their faces painted with joy, surprise and wonder. Their eyes open wide with a sparkle, jaw dropped and mouth opened. It’s simply magical. I wonder if you’re like me, do you the observer feel the same sudden rush of warmth that feels as if it’s hugging your heart? It’s an authentic joy that I find myself grateful for witnessing or helping to create.

Those moments are to be treasured. And of all places, the last place one would imagine that happening is in a doctor’s office or at the hospital. Yet, just recently, I spent time at a local Ascension Health Care clinic in Milwaukee where I helped orchestrate this type of experience using a new digital tool from SpellBound.

SpellBound brings magic to our fingertips using augmented reality. As a child life specialist, one of the most highly effective coping strategies used by children and teens facing uncomfortable or scary medical procedures is distraction. SpellBound uses an app on your phone or tablet to project a 3D image from printed materials. For this product review, I supported four siblings, ages 13, 9, 8 and 5 years old with vaccinations. 

SpellBound in Action

Just prior to getting their vaccination, each of the children demonstrated some mild anxiety. They seemed to tense up, smiles faded from their faces, until their attention was redirected and focused on this new and exciting virtual experience. Their smiles returned with wonder and they appeared unbothered while the needle insertion and removal occurred.

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I had only moments to explain I was there to show them something new to play while they got medicine. It took even less time for their interest to peak as I held out the SpellBound Quick Distract card in front of the iPad. Carla Allen, prenatal care coordinator and medical assistant, was present to observe the use of the tool, but also because she later explained she often assists in holding anxious patients down. Carla was so fascinated herself, she excitedly took the iPad from me to see if it was truly user-friendly enough for her to help 5 year old Zahar.  I knew that Zahar would also be getting caught up on her vaccinations, so I brought more magic by adding a second Quick Distract card to what she was seeing on the screen.

"Oh my gosh, that was the easiest I've ever done shots for a 5 year old I think,” - RN Jenni O’Malley

As a child life specialist using this tool with the children, my role did not change. In my last position, we were often paged to support children in outpatient lab with little to no time to provide preparation. Even with little time this day, I still warmly approached each family member, explained what their "job" was to do (i.e. keep right arm “still as a statue” and "you can still play with your left."), kept them calm and distracted through play, and provided behavior-specific praise. 

Following back to back immunizations for this family, the 13-year-old told me that in the past the other children “cried and did not sit still.” Their mother was laughing in amazement during and following the procedures. 

Often what children and teens need is a tool to help distract them enough to get through medical procedures that produce high anxiety, like vaccinations. The tool, like SpellBound augmented reality, opens a door to the realization that they can get through it using coping strategies that work best for them. Afterwards, parents and health care professionals can empower children by reinforcing this discovery to help them feel less anxious with future procedures and remind them of this successful experience.   

If you're looking for a way to help your child or a child you work with cope with a medical procedure, consider using SpellBound tools! 

This post is sponsored. All opinions are my own.

To celebrate Child Life Month, one lucky winner will receive the SpellBound trial package consisting of a selection of distraction cards! To enter to win, comment on this blog post who you would use the prize for and head over to Instagram to 1. Follow @doseofplay and @spellboundar. 2. Like the giveaway post on @doseofplay and tag 2 people in the comments!

This giveaway is in no way sponsored, endorsed, or administered by Instagram. By entering, you are confirming you are 18+ years of age and you release Instagram of any/all responsibility. Giveaway open to eligible contestants worldwide. Giveaway closes at 11:59 CST on March 4th 2018. The winner will be announced on March 5th, 2018 and will have 48 hours to claim before the next winner is chosen. Good luck!