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Our Stories

Colouring book helps children understand why new siblings can’t come home yet

Toronto, March 5, 2018

By Leslie Shepherd

Amanda Hignell and Marcelo Siles review a colouring book
Social worker Amanda Hignell reviews a new colouring book for siblings of babies in the NICU alongside its designer, Marcelo Siles, a graphic artist with the hospital’s Medical Media Centre. (Photo by Katie Cooper)

Children whose newborn brother or sister need to be in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit often find it difficult to understand why the baby can’t come home yet or why their parents have to spend so much time away.

To help them understand where and how their new siblings are being cared for, the NICU partnered with the hospital’s Medical Media Centre to create an explanatory colouring book called “Super Siblings.”

The colouring book was the idea of social worker Jeanette Doherty, who had worked with something similar at another hospital, but that book focused only on premature babies, said fellow NICU social worker Amanda Hignell.

When Hignell and Doherty couldn’t find anything else that was more suitable, they decided to make their own colouring book, broadening it to include other reasons babies need to stay in the NICU, and making it gender neutral. They took their script to Marcelo Siles, a graphic artist in the hospital’s Medical Media Centre, who illustrated the 16-page book.

Amanda Hignell and Marcelo Siles review a colouring book
The cover of a new colouring book for siblings of babies in the Neo-natal Intensive Care. Download the colouring book.

“Sometimes babies come earlier than their families planned,” the book says. “And some babies need special medicine after they are born. Sometimes families wonder why this happened to them. Did you ask this question? Nothing anyone did or said caused this. Some babies need more help than others and are not ready to go home yet.”

The colouring book is distributed as needed to NICU families with older siblings. Hignell said other hospitals have asked if they could adopt the colouring book for their NICUs.

“This is a great tool to help parents explain to siblings why the baby is not able to come home and why the parents have to spend so much time at the hospital,” said Hignell.

Did you know? About 500 babies are treated each year in the NICU at St. Michael’s.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in more than 29 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the Hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael’s Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.

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