Amanda Ammons, a child life specialist at Children’s Health in Dallas, learned about the child life profession at a career day in high school. “I’ve never looked back,” says Ammons. “This was what I wanted—it’s a mix of all my passions, and at the heart of it is helping children cope with difficult things.” Eleven years into her career, Ammons received the Children’s Miracle Network’s Child Life Specialist of the Year award.
Limitations lead to innovation
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Ammons found ways to connect with kids despite limits on in-person interaction. Ammons created “Van Videos,” with the help of the in-house production team at Children’s Health, to share with kids across the organization.
The videos feature Van, Ammon’s facility dog, as he goes on scavenger hunts, takes nature walks or reads a story. “The videos provided a way for the kids to spend time with Van, but it also empowered them by teaching coping skills or other activities,” she says. The video series has extended beyond the height of the pandemic and Van’s recent passing, as they play on the hospital’s TV network and are used by teams across the organization as an educational resource.
Ammons adapts her approach for each patient. “The job is a true honor,” she says. “My goal is to learn from every patient.” One case involved a child who was injured in a car accident that resulted in the loss of a primary caregiver. Over the next several months, Ammons worked with the patient to process and heal from the trauma. “No child copes the same, and it’s our job to meet them where they’re at,” she says. “The beauty and the resiliency of children is that they can go through something scary and still come out at the end with joy.”
Despite intense days, Ammons stays committed to a broader purpose. “Staying resilient, for me, is about bringing it back to that purpose of supporting patients and families,” she says. “I stay centered on helping them cope with things they never thought they would be dealing with.”