Child Life Month Student Spotlight: Madison

Name: Madison Dickson

Degree and graduation year: Masters of Human Development and Family Science, with a concentration in Child Life. Madison will graduate in of May 2024. Madison is also completing a Behavior Specialist certificate.

Tell us about your ECU and HHP experience thus far:
My time in the graduate program has provided me with multiple experiences to excel as a professional. The support I have received from the faculty has been immense. I am grateful for my opportunity to be an ECU Pirate.

Tell us about your hobbies and involvement at ECU?
I was extremely excited to get involved in ECU right away. As a graduate student, I have been a member of the Child Life Student Association and the Council of Family Relations. These organizations have helped me to meet numerous new peers. Being away from home was hard at first so having these opportunities means the world to me. I have also been working as a Health Coach for Greene County Health Care Inc. This has been an incredible experience helping me to become more comfortable in a medical environment. Lastly, I have been working with two professors, Drs. Desai and Dodor, as a graduate assistant. I have gained both research and teaching experiences from working with them. My hobbies include reading, cooking, and going to the beach.

What brought you to ECU?
I grew up and went to my undergrad in western Pennsylvania so the warmer climate drew me to look at universities in the south. I wanted to seek new opportunities away from home. I visited ECU before applying to meet the faculty and see the I was welcomed with open arms. ECU gave me thechance to explore myself in a new environment while obtaining a degree in Child Life, which had been my goal for years. It was clear to me then that ECU was where I wanted and was meant to be.

Why do you want to enter the field of Child Life?
I entered the field of Child Life because of my nephew, Grayson. Grayson was diagnosed at 3 years old with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). I was a junior in college at this time studying Elementary and Special Education. My career focus changed immediately after seeing what he and my family were going through. My nephew’s experience fueled my passion for working with children in hospital settings. The focus on the psychosocial needs of patients is what solidified my love for the field. I was thrilled to learn that I will continue using my teaching skills even as a Child Life Specialist in order to support the psychosocial needs of my I am forever grateful for the opportunity to pay it forward to other children like my nephew.

Tell us about your upcoming internship or where you hope to intern?
I will be beginning my Child Life experience through a practicum at the TEDI BEAR Children’s Advocacy I am looking forward to learning how I can best care for children who are victims of child abuse or neglect. This is an incredible experience to buildmy skills as a future Child Life Specialist. As for a future internship, I hope to intern in a children’s hospital setting gaining experience with numerous populations.

What is your favorite aspect of Child Life?
My favorite aspect of Child Life is advocacy. Being an advocate is a huge part of being a Child Life Specialist. I am striving to learn numerous methods of advocating for my future patients and families. I may be the only person they have to advocate for them. I hope to advocate for their beliefs and wants. Making sure my patients and families feel heard is most important to Children deserve to be children even if they are in the hospital. I will advocate for them to continue having chances to learn academically and social emotionally.

Tell us about your favorite Child Life course or professor(s)?
My favorite Child Life course I have taken thus far is Child Life in a Healthcare Setting taught by Dr. Priti Desai. My undergrad is in Elementary Education and Special Education so this class opened my eyes to working with children in healthcare I was able to better understand the Child Lifeprofession and how I can become one. I enjoyed seeing the overlap between education and Child Life. There are numerous skills that can be used for both. This class helped me to adjust my current skills as well as learn new skills to best support children. Dr. Desai’s passion for the field was truly inspiring and contagious. Her ongoing support encourages me to continue on the path of becoming a Child Life Specialist.

What kind of setting or future job do you hope to have upon graduation?
I hope to one day work as a Child Life Specialist in Virginia. Specifically supporting military families who have children in a hospital setting. I am passionate about working with oncology andtrauma I hope that I will gain experience caring for these populations.

Anything else you’d like to share about yourself or your passion for Child Life?
I saw firsthand how cancer affected my entire family, but you know how the saying goes, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” However, I’ve come to find that at times the lemons that life gives us are too sour on their own, and it takes helping hands to give us sugar for our lemonade. Child Life Specialists had a dramatic impact on my family through this heartbreaking time. These professionals treated my nephew, not his cancer. Through his battle, I quickly learned that life doesn’t just hand us all the ingredients needed to make our lemonade. Lemonade can be bitter and sour, but we can discover how to make it sweet through the sugar provided by the helping hands of Child Life Specialists. Before my nephew was diagnosed, I did not know what a Child Life Specialist was, nor did I know the hardwork, study, and compassion the profession.

Words of advice for prospective and/or currents students?

    1. To prospective students: Child Life is a life-changing career choice. You will learn just how muchthis field can change you as a person for the I have never been involved in something more rewarding.
    2. To current students: Keep going! You are here for a reason. You will change lives.