Many CHEO families know Michèle Taché, a child life specialist at CHEO who has spent 36 years helping heal children at CHEO through the power of play. “I’ve always been a kid at heart and I honestly believe it’s because I have spent my days at CHEO being inspired by the children and youth here. Their energy, enthusiasm and resilience; to witness that every day is a privilege. They’ve kept me young.”
Michèle officially retired on January 22, 2021 with countless friends and memories collected along the way. “Every child I’ve met holds a place in my heart. Every day I was a part of a team that helped these kids and families have a positive CHEO experience whether they were with us for a few hours, a lengthy stay or repeated admissions. Many of these relationships have lasted a lifetime. The families often come back and seek us out to say ‘hi’ and update us to let us know how well they are doing. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
It’s a powerful bond. Child life specialists help children and youth cope during their time at CHEO, whether it’s during a hospital stay, visit to the Emergency Department, preparation for surgery or other medical tests and procedures. They also help with the stress these kids can feel over the uncertainty of illness or injury. Child life specialists also offer support to the siblings and parents of children and youth being cared for at CHEO. They bring a sense of normalcy, distraction and fun to what may be an otherwise traumatic time. The team is made up of certified child life specialists, volunteers and of course, everyone’s favourite therapeutic clown, Molly Penny.
Research has shown that children and youth who are prepared for their medical procedures have less anxiety and those who engage in therapeutic play with a trained professional show less emotional distress during their hospitalization. It’s an essential support and resource for all our patients and families at CHEO.
Thanks to community support through the CHEO Foundation, we can provide some of the age-appropriate tools that help make child life magic happen in the playrooms and at the bedside. These donor dollars ensure there are games, crafts and specialized activities to help kids pass the time in hospital. Child life specialists have become even more crucial during the pandemic, where COVID restrictions keep kids in their rooms and only one parent or guardian is permitted to visit.