Clinical Perspective: Maureen Johnston, CTRS

Every day — and especially this Child Life and Social Work Month — we are proud to work with incredible clinicians, both on our staff and in our community. The network of child life specialists and social workers around the country help get more kids in the game by introducing families to our program..

This month, we sat down with some of our most dedicated child life specialist and social workers from around the country to talk about their experience with Team IMPACT and why they trust their patients and families to Team IMPACT.

Maureen Johnston is a recreational therapist and child life specialist at Schriners Children’s Hospital. She has referred many of her patients to Team IMPACT, including Jordan, who is matched with the University of Minnesota Women’s Gymnastics team. Maureen has seen Jordan’s confidence grow when being around the team and thinks all kids should have the opportunity to get in the game.

I graduated from the University of Iowa in 1983 with a degree in Recreational Therapy. I worked in long term care for a few years as a Recreational Therapist, and in 1990, I joined the Child Life team at Shriners Children’s as a Recreational Therapist. I was promoted to the Director of Child Life after a few years and now I am in my 33rd year at Shriners Children’s.  

I did a lot of volunteering for kids with special needs when I was in high school and knew I wanted to find a career where I could spend time with kids that had different abilities. My advisor introduced me to Recreational Therapy and I loved my first few classes and the rest is history.  

Team IMPACT’s mission of connecting kids with illness and disability to college sports teams and creating longterm relationships is so important. Seeing videos of kids involvement with various teams and watching the kids thrive, I knew Team IMPACT was something I wanted to introduce to the kids I work with at Shriners Children’s. 

I have a patient who I have been with for a long time. Her name is Jordan, and she has been involved in gymnastics since the age of three. It is the true love in her life. Jordan is legally blind and also has a prosthetic leg, but nothing can stop her! When I called Jordan to ask if she’d  like to be a part of the University of Minnesota gymnastics team through Team IMPACT, she was so excited! She loves being part of the team and the feeling of acceptance that comes with it. The team has welcomed her with open arms. I went to watch a Gophers’ women’s gymnastics meet recently. Jordan was there on the sidelines and let me tell you, the smile never left her face. She was right in the middle of the team as they surround a gymnast with high fives and hugs after they finish an event. Jordan told me that members of the team drove to one of her meets where her specialty is the bars, and she had her best routine and highest score ever while they were there. They were the best cheer squad she has ever had.

Watching Jordan’s self-confidence grow has been one of the biggest changes I have seen in her since joining the team. Being a part of Team IMPACT has helped her become more outgoing and step out of her comfort zone. Team IMPACT is an awesome program, and I love being a part of it. It truly changes kids’ lives.