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Child Life Specialist

Children today confront a wide variety of stressful and potentially traumatic events that may overwhelm their natural ability to cope and heal. Child Life Specialists are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life's most challenging moments. Armed with a strong background in child development and family systems, Child Life Specialists promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization.

The Child Life Specialist concentration introduces the history, philosophy, theories, and concepts relating to child life services. The role of child life specialist as a member of the healthcare team is examined.

Concepts and theories explored in the Child Life Specialist concentration include:

  • Recognition of the importance and therapeutic value of recreation/play in a hospital setting
  • Effective design of play areas within a hospital setting
  • The effects of hospitalization on children and families
  • Use of recreation and play as a therapeutic modality in a hospital setting
  • The relationship between developmental stages and the play/coping skills of the hospitalized child
Services that Child Life Specialists provide include:
  • Psychological preparation for tests, surgeries, and other medical procedures
  • Therapeutic medical and recreational play
  • Sibling support
  • Support for grief and bereavement
  • Emergency room interventions
  • Hospital pre-admission tours
  • Outpatient consultation with families
  • Coordination of special events, entertainment, and activities for patients and their families
  • Education of caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress


Department: 
Recreation, Tourism, and Sport Management

Degree: Bachelor of Science in Recreation & Leisure Studies; Child Life Specialist concentration

More info: If you're considering declaring this major, contact Dr. MaryJo Archambault to get started