A young woman dreams of helping kids with chronic medical conditions achieve their goals Angelica Barrera, Washington

A young woman dreams of helping kids with chronic medical conditions achieve their goals


A student with Crouzon syndrome pursues a career as a child life specialist

“I was born with Crouzon syndrome. It’s a condition where the bones of your skull do not grow separately; they grow together. I went through a lot of surgeries growing up. And I went through a lot of medical tests and medical appointments.”

MKTCO12719_AngelicaBarrera“I was bullied in school. I didn’t play with any of the girls my age. Kids laughed at me and called me names because my facial features from my syndrome were noticeably different. And it would happen to me every day at recess. It was really hard.”

“That’s what motivated me to become a child life specialist. I want to be able to give back to Seattle Children’s Hospital, which gave me so much when I was a patient. And I want to be able to help the kids and let them know that I went through what they are going through and that they can overcome it,” explained Angelica Barrera, a senior majoring in family studies at Central Washington University (CWU).

“Child life specialists help children and families cope during hospitalization. They mainly work with children who stay in the hospital every day and who cannot go home for several months because of their treatment, like cancer patients. They help them—making sure that they have a good time and that they are not sad or nervous about the treatments that they are getting.”

To become a child life specialist, Angelica studied a variety of subjects including child development, theories of play, childhood diseases and disorders, family problems and mediation, and grief and loss.

During Angelica’s child development course, her professor assigned homework, which counted for 70 percent of her grade, in MyVirtualChild, an online learning program. MyVirtualChild gives each student a child to raise from birth to age eighteen. Along the way, the student observes the child’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive growth and is asked to answer questions and make decisions about the child.

After each age, the program quizzes the students, asking questions such as “How has your child developed?” “How has your child grown in her cognitive skills?” And “What did you do, as a parent, to help your child fix problems with her temperament?” “It taught me about children’s cognitive skills, their levels of intelligence, their temperament, and their types of play,” Angelica explained.

Angelica really enjoyed the program, saying that “MyVirtualChild is an engaging way to learn.” She’s been able to apply the knowledge and skills that she’s learned in her volunteer childcare work at the CWU Family Resource Center and Bright Beginnings for Kittitas County.

MyVirtualChild is an engaging way to learn.”

Reflecting on her experiences, Angelica has this advice for students with chronic medical conditions: “Do not limit yourself. Do not feel that because you were born with a syndrome or you got cancer that you can’t go to college. You can still go to college. You can still be a normal kid, like everybody else.”



MyVirtualChild is an interactive web-based simulation that allows users to raise a child from birth to age 18 and monitor the effects of their parenting decisions over time. This engaging website lets users apply the key concepts that they are learning in their child development classes.
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