Changing outcomes for the entire family with the new Sibling Studio

When siblings Grant and Alyssa get together, you can tell right away that they’re best friends. They’ll defend each other one second, then tease each other the next. 

Over the years, Grant has spent many long hours at Cincinnati Children’s, but not as a patient. He’s often here while his sister receives ongoing complex care.

When Alyssa was 8 years old, an MRI revealed a rare brain tumor. After three years of close monitoring, our doctors discovered that the tumor had grown and Alyssa would need surgery to remove it.

Parents, Shanda and Ron, are both busy teachers. They often had to bring Grant to Alyssa’s lengthy appointments. While they were deeply concerned for their daughter’s health, they knew their son had needs as well. “It’s been difficult for Grant,” Shanda shares. “He and I have had a lot of talks about Alyssa’s diagnosis and how we can support her. He’s had to grow up fast.” 

While his sister’s health is what’s most important to Grant, Alyssa’s care took a toll on him too. “It’s like I’m the suitcase that gets traveled around,” he says. “I mean, I like traveling…” He and Alyssa chuckle at his joke. “But honestly, there were times I was cooped up in a room for hours. It was really hard.” 

Child Life: The Calming Power of Play

For siblings of children with complex medical needs, hospital visits can be stressful. They experience the emotional distress of their brother or sister being sick or injured and hearing doctors talk about scary tests and possible outcomes. They also see the worry in their parents and have to sit through long, quiet waits or the bustle of a busy hospital floor.  

As a global leader in child health, we understand that world-class care means caring for the entire family—including siblings. 

In our pursuit of perfect care, we need to ensure that all children in the family are supported and nurtured during their time with us. That’s why we’re creating a new Sibling Studio, operated by our Child Life experts, as part of our critical care expansion. Our Child Life and Integrative Care team plays a significant role in helping children—both patients and siblings—cope with the stress and uncertainty of illness. And as more families from the community and around the world seek our expert care, we must expand to meet the growing need.  

“This new Sibling Studio is vital for the services our Child Life team provides,” says Chris Holtman, manager of our Champions Program, which allows grateful patients and families to give back to the medical center in meaningful ways. “Siblings can engage in fun and therapeutic activities in a safe, supervised environment, relieving stress for both kids and parents.” 

The studio will include multiple activity zones to assist in developmental and expressive play for our patients’ siblings. Activities will include things like play areas for all ages, art and music therapy, and pet therapy with visits from our facility dogs. 

There will also be books, toys and interactive technology features for entertainment and distraction, as well as a quiet area for kids to study or decompress. 

Another vital benefit? Staff support in the Sibling Studio will help us improve care for our patients as well. It will reduce the need for parents to cancel and reschedule urgent appointments, as they will have a safe place within the hospital for their other children to stay. 

And the comfort of knowing their well children are in a supervised, fun and active environment during appointments will allow parents to focus on their sick child’s care.

An Unbreakable Brother-Sister Bond

Today, 14-year-old Grant is happy to see his big sister thriving. Three years after surgery, 15-year-old Alyssa volunteers for the Cincinnati Museum Center as a costumed interpreter—bringing local history to life through acting.

Grateful for the experiences she and her brother share with our Child Life team, Alyssa would love to one day work at the Sibling Studio. 

“The Child Life specialists have helped my family a lot—and I want to help kids, like they’ve helped me and Grant.”

Grant is busy running track and volunteering at his church, but he still finds time to help his family however he can. He even took a cooking class to learn how to make healthy meals for them.  

Both Grant and Alyssa are excited to see plans for the Sibling Studio become a reality. “I can do my homework, play games and have a space to get away from all the stress when I need to. It will be so helpful for families at the hospital—and for kids like me.”

For more information on how you can support the Sibling Studio and our Child Life team, contact Katie Stock at katherine.stock@cchmc.org or 513-636-5285.