What is a Child Life Specialist?

Certified Child Life Specialists help to reduce the stress and anxiety that many children experience in hospital and healthcare settings. A Certified Child Life Specialist is a professional who is specially trained to help children and their families understand and manage challenging life events and stressful healthcare experiences. They are skilled in providing developmental, educational, and therapeutic interventions for children and their families under stress. They also support growth and development while recognizing family strengths and individuality, and respecting different methods of coping.

Together, with your family and your health care team, the role of the Certified Child Life Specialist is to:

  • Increase the understanding of hospital and stressful experiences.
  • Recognize and support strengths within the family.
  • Provide an environment that includes emotional support.
  • Promote normal growth and development.

The Value of Medical Play

Play is an essential, natural part of childhood, important in its own right—it facilitates healing, coping, mastery, self-expression, creativity, achievement and learning, and is vital to a child's optimal growth and development. Play is also an effective way to prepare children for a medical procedure: opportunities for hands-on interaction with medical equipment and supplies help children understand why they are at the hospital and what they can expect. Children prepared and supported by child life services have proven to fare better than those who have not on measures of emotional distress and coping effectiveness during procedures, overall coping and adjustment during a hospital stay, understanding of hospitalization and procedures, and post-hospital adjustment and physical recovery.

Activities to continue normal growth and development in patient rooms and playrooms

  • Playroom with arts supplies, games, books and video games
  • Coordination of special events, birthdays, milestones, and holiday celebrations
  • Starlight Children’s Foundation Fun Centers with Nintendo Wii
  • Sibling support and education during diagnosis, treatment, and hospital visits
  • Volunteer coordination to help provide play at the bedside and in playrooms for patients
  • Grief and bereavement support
  • Get Well Network
  • Animal Assisted Therapy
  • Studio G