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Rehabilitation specialist: 'Give children influence over their own recovery'.

‘The F words model helps to think in terms of possibilities and prospects. This helps children who have to learn to cope with the consequences of their condition, such as brain damage or the aftermath of intensive treatment for cancer,’ says Jeanine Voorman, pediatric rehabilitation specialist at the Máxima Center. She talks about the six F words that fit all aspects of life and the benefits of rehabilitation for children.

‘The model and the 6 F words (words that start with the letter ‘F’: Function, Family, Fitness, Fun, Friends, and Future) were created by Jan Willem Gorter,’ says Jeanine. She is proud to announce that in August 2021 he will become Professor of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital and will also be working at the Máxima Center. She herself has been working at the Máxima Center since the new building opened in 2018. Jeanine: ‘I see the children referred to rehabilitation at the outpatient clinic, at the multidisciplinary consultations and at the consultation when they are admitted to the Máxima Center. Those include children in the neuro-oncology department, so the children with a brain tumor or a tumor in the spinal cord.’

‘As a rehabilitation specialist, I work with children and parents/caregivers to look at the effects of a disorder on daily functioning. Together with them I look for ways in which children, despite the consequences of their diagnosis and intensive treatment, can participate as actively as possible, at school, in play and at home with their families. And at how they can develop in the best possible way. To this end, I work with many different colleagues. That’s what I love about my job. Often children have wishes or questions, but so do parents/caregivers. Together we then find the best way to achieve this; whether I can help them with medication, whether they can do some more training in that, or whether we can help by supporting with tools, or some other strategy.’

Jeanine Voorman: ‘The F words model helps to think in terms of possibilities and prospects rather than the limitations that life with/after cancer holds for a child. We use this model in our approach to pediatric rehabilitation. And it helps as a framework during a conversation with parents/caregivers and children. The first word Function is about what children do in everyday life, at home, at school or in society; it’s about what children are or want to be able to do, and that they are allowed to do things in their own way. Then there’s Family: the most important environment for all children is the family. Treatment in pediatric rehabilitation should therefore always focus on children and their families. Fitness: Children with disabilities as a result of a disorder are less fit than other children and less fit than they should be. Future: it’s always important to keep the final goal in mind: a life as independent as possible in which the child fully participates in society. Friends: contact with peers and friendships are crucial to children’s development and, as caregivers, we encourage and support them. Finally, Fun: all children, including those with impaired development, want to have fun and play. That’s how they develop!’

‘This model is certainly more widely applicable,’ says Jeanine in response to the question. ‘These six Fs are always important; shortly after treatment, but also years after treatment. Whether you’re three years old or 15; the content of the six F words changes, and they are fleshed out differently, but for me these six remain an important stepping stone to discuss with children and parents. As a rehabilitation specialist, I look primarily to the future of each child: how to guide them to a life of optimal quality. By searching together for the prospects in these six areas, we empower children and parents/caregivers.