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Staff Spotlight: Nicole Gray, Child Life Specialist


Nicole Gray, MS, CCLS

- B.S., Human Development and Counseling Psychology, Wheelock College in Boston 
- Masters degree in Child Life and Family Centered Care, Wheelock College  
- Nicole grew up in New Hampshire and now lives in Plainville, MA 
- She enjoys the outdoors, especially her family’s boat on Lake Winnipesaukee
- Hobbies include reading, crocheting, and following all New England sports teams
- Favorite TV shows: Grey’s Anatomy and Friends

"The best part of my job is meeting families and helping them cope with diabetes.  It's both challenging and rewarding."

What is a Child Life Specialist?

The Certified Child Life Specialist at the UMass Memorial Diabetes Center of Excellence supports children and families as needed, beginning at their very first office appointment. She works closely with the pediatric diabetes care team to provide unique and age appropriate supports and interventions. They include: therapeutic activities in the waiting room and exam room, procedural support, medical play, recreational play, developmentally appropriate education and general family support.   

Assisting families during office visits

  • Assessing how the child is doing with fingersticks, injections, and rotating sites. Developing incentive/reward charts with pre-school and younger elementary students as needed to reinforce positive diabetes care. 
  • Socialization and managing life with diabetes at school, with siblings, and other peer relationships.
  • Reducing stress, anxiety, and fear of medical staff, D.K.A., hypoglycemia, injections, etc.
  • Transitioning to continuous glucose monitors and/or insulin pump therapy.

Types of interventions

There are different strategies and interventions for helping infants and toddlers (newborn to two years old), preschoolers (2-5 years old), school age (5-12 years old) and adolescents (12 years and up). 


Helping a toddler with type 1 diabetes 

This child was fearful and upset during his first visit to clinic. He was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and hospitalized while on vacation with his family in the Bahamas. That experience traumatized him and he became fearful of doctors. At their first UMass Diabetes Center of Excellence appointment he was inconsolable. Nicole tried to engage him with toys, but he was too fearful. Two weeks later at his second office visit there was a slight improvement. Nicole blew bubbles from the corner of the exam room and provided toys, which he played with on his own. She also sent his mother home with resources about ways help a toddler cope with diabetes clinic appointments and medical procedures. By the third visit, with more bubbles and toys, he did not cry and was more comfortable and trusting of Nicole, the nurses and doctors. He began blowing and popping bubbles with Nicole. From that day on he associated doctor appointments with normal experiences, instead of shots and discomfort.  

Success with a teenager

Nicole was asked to help an 18-year-old boy who had lived with type 1 diabetes for years. His mother would always administer his insulin injections as he was afraid to do it himself. Nicole and the young man spoke for a while and uncovered the source of his fear and anxiety. She introduced him to the ShotBlocker, a pain management tool, and he used it to inject his own insulin for the very first time. He left that appointment with the confidence that he could do it himself that evening and going forward.