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Current Research Projects

Current Research

  • STAR Care

    • Mixed-methods project exploring quantitative and qualitative experiences and outcomes of children with traumatic brain injuries and their families during and beyond PICU admission.
  • Relationships between a PICU Journal and Parent Coping and Engagement Outcomes

    • This study examines parent/caregivers experiences of, perceptions about, and outcomes related to their use of a PICU journal tool during and beyond their child’s critical care admission.
  • Little Bookworms: A Parent-Led Reading Intervention for Infants in the NICU

    • This study explores parent/caregiver experiences of and outcomes related to participation in a bedside reading program for their infant in the NICU.
  • Patient Awake While Scanned

    • Supported by a spring 2023 Seeding Success grant, this project entails a six-dimensional quality analysis of a psychosocial preparation program that enables children to undergo MRI scans without the need for (and associated risks of) general anesthesia.
  • Individualized Care Planning for Children with Behavioral Health Needs

    • This mixed methods study evaluates an individualized care planning tool from the perspectives of children with behavioral health needs, their parents/caregivers, and hospital staff to understand barriers to implementation and directions for growth.
  • Healthcare Transition Experiences of Patients with Hemophilia

    • This study examines the experiences of adolescents and young adults with hemophilia who are transitioning from pediatric to adult healthcare, to identify the challenges and barriers they face and provide a foundation for future supports.
  • Parent/Caregiver Bereavement Support Needs

    • This mixed methods study explores parent/caregiver perceptions of and experiences with hospital-based bereavement services to identify gaps in care and enhance access to family-centered supports throughout the grief trajectory.
  • Facility Dog Intervention in Pediatric Echo/EKG

    • The aim of this work is to quantify the outcomes associated with facility dog interventions in an outpatient pediatric cardiology clinic.
  • Assessment Perceptions and Practices in Child Life Services

    • This mixed-methods research explores how Certified Child Life Specialists understand, describe, and practice child life assessment with children and families in healthcare settings.
  • Parent/Caregiver Experiences of Pediatric Intensive and Acute Care

    • This study looks at parent/caregiver experiences of their child’s transition from pediatric intensive care to acute care, or step-down, unit, in order to identify needs and design multidisciplinary, trauma-informed interventions.

Research Overview

In conjunction with faculty, graduate students, and our affiliation with the Child Life Inquiry Collective, our research agenda addresses child development and learning processes through a critical socio-cultural and health-focused lens. Grounded in educational and developmental psychology, we situate education outside of the traditional classroom setting and instead focus on culturally and emotionally laden sites of learning such as the hospital, outpatient clinic, community, and family.  Blending traditional and innovative qualitative methods with established developmental theories, we employ a Certified-Child-Life-Specialist-informed clinical perspective to deconstruct the ways in which children learn about and participate in dominant social binaries such as health/illness, life/death, and childhood/adulthood, and the implications for direct pediatric medical and psychosocial care.  Ultimately, we strive for our research to make space for families, healthcare providers, and policymakers to think differently about both child and family capacities for intentional engagement in their developmental and healthcare experiences.

Our research recognizes and values multiple ways of knowing and being.  Although often drawn to qualitative methodologies and intermingled assemblages of ontology, epistemology, and macro- to mid-level theories, we appreciate what all research paradigms can contribute to improving the experiences of children and families.  Thus, we harness a variety of research designs, from post-structural case study work to collaborative narrative refraction, systematic literature reviews, historical content analyses, survey-based research, retrospective reviews, and prospective intervention research.  Although a broad spectrum, we intentionally practice an approach to research that seeks to balance structure, flexibility, intelligibility, creativity, and improvisation – a scaffolding as described by our lab director, Dr. Jessika Boles, and Dr. Lisbeth Berbary (2014) at the University of Waterloo.

The CHILL lab regards children and families as the foremost experts on their past, present, and anticipated needs and experiences. To address the problematic lack of healthcare research from the perspectives of pediatric patients and their families, our priority is to conduct research using developmentally appropriate, child-centered, and trauma-informed methods (such as narrative or semi-structured interviews, arts-based activities, and group play interventions) to elicit voices typically marginalized by medical research models. Additionally, we view research participation not only as a tool for identifying population needs and evaluating interventions but also as a developmental experience that promotes meaning-making and cultivates a positive outlook on future research participation for our participants.  With each study, we learn more about ways to best support children and families as they navigate illness, loss, and research, improving our ability to generate research that is culturally humble, trauma-informed, and emotionally safe for both participants and research staff.