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Understanding Developmental and Behavioral Issues in Your Child Undergoing Treatment

Special Developmental Concerns

Infants and Toddlers

Since infants and toddlers are sensitive to separating from parents during medical treatment, our goal is to minimize those periods of separation. The psychosocial team supports parents’ ability to stay with their child during procedures, and helps identify people in their support network who can manage other siblings and family responsibilities in their absence. When it is not possible for parents to stay with a sick child, members of the psychosocial team – particularly Child Life staff – can help care for the patient. Adherence to medical regimens can be a challenge to the parent of an infant or toddler. Creative ways to give medication and encourage feeding are taught by everyone on staff, especially our nurses.


Pre-schoolers can be erratic in their moods and behavior. Tantrums, sleep difficulties, and refusal to cooperate with treatment tax parents’ energy and strength. Behavioral techniques and medical play give parents and pre-school-aged patients some control over stressful situations. The psychosocial team and child life specialists use coloring books, workbooks, story books and videos to familiarize children of this age with treatments and procedures.

School-age Children

Children in this age group are sensitive about bodily changes caused by the disease and its treatment. Some tend to become overly dependent on their parents. Parents can help by reassuring their children and teaching them about the disease process.

Educational and social development can suffer as a result of frequent school absences. School districts may be asked to work creatively with parents and hospital staff to incorporate a more flexible schedule into each child’s academic routine. Project SOAR (School Re-Entry & Ongoing Academic Resources) is pivotal to addressing these issues. SOAR eases the social transition back to school, and helps parents navigate the education system on behalf of their children.

In addition, we often refer children to camp programs, where they can experience normal camp activities, meet and connect with one another, and feel less isolated in their journey.


Cancer or other chronic illness threatens adolescents’ ability to develop their identity and plan for the future. The demands of treatment interfere with the normal activities of adolescents, resulting in depression and feelings of hopelessness. While teen-age patients may understand all the implications of the disease and treatment, they may deny the seriousness of the diagnosis to justify poor compliance and risk-taking.

While young people often form their own peer groups, the Center offers an outstanding support team as well as a variety of services, including groups that combine socialization and a place where teens can discuss their individual concerns and situations.