Child Life Specialist Support

“A Hand to Hold.”

helping-girlIt’s a parent’s worst nightmare to learn that your child requires an operation or that they have been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. The role of a Child Life Specialist is to teach, prepare and support children, youth and families while enhancing coping strategies during a difficult and unpredictable time. One of the most important aspects of a Child Life Specialist is to clarify potentially confusing procedures and medical jargon; this is often done through play & Another core component of a Child Life Specialist is to offer emotional support during procedures and testing. Children who have health conditions will endure upsetting procedures and may have a traumatic response to such.

A Child Life Specialist can support you and your child through this time and offer ongoing emotional support, distraction and relaxation techniques.A Child Life Specialist will also liaise with medical/treatment professionals in efforts to enhance collaborative treatment approaches and continuity of care. Research has shown that when we prepare children for what to expect during a medical procedure in a way that is appropriate for their developmental understanding, they have a stronger ability to cope and recover with a decrease in anxiety.

Why would I use this service?

  • Do you have to fight, bribe or coerce your child to go to the dentist or doctor?
  • When your child was born did they require medical attention that required hospitalization and separation from their mother and are you concerned about attachment or separation
  •  Does your child have a chronic illness where they will receive ongoing medical care and
  • Does your child have a medical condition that has created a loss of self-identity, confidence or decreased self-esteem?
  • Does your child have a panic attack at the thought of having their teeth cleaned?
  •  Has your child had an adverse experience with the health care system and/or a provider that continues to impact your child?

If you answered, “yes” to any of the above, Child Life Specialist Services could really benefit both you and your child with comprehension, coping and recovery.

Child life services within the community enhance early intervention supports and increase coping and management.

What can I expect?

An example of a session with a child who is preparing for a medical procedure could include elements of creative modalities such as play, art or music. If a child is going into hospital for a tonsillectomy we may use a body outline doll to create what the operation may look like and how  the doll will cope and recover (using play medical equipment). This would be a step by step process starting with the sedation of the doll, pain management and recovery. We may also use that doll to role pay the child’s fears and begin some processing elements. This gives the child a sense of control, mastery and predictability.

In what settings do CLS work?

bearChild Life Specialists often work out of hospitals, supporting children, youth and families during acute phases. Child Life services within the community enhance early intervention supports and increase coping and management. Children are naturally curious. If your child has a condition that is visible or if undergoing treatment/recovery he/she will have special needs. It may be appropriate to arrange a Child Life Specialist to do an age-appropriate presentation at the child’s classroom or within the community to enhance understanding and support and eliminate stigma.


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