The Child Life Process

Assess for Stress - Make a Plan - Implement Plan - Evaluate and Adjust
— the APIE approach

What does a child life specialist do? 

Keep Calm and Call Child Life.jpg
  • Encourages optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, especially related to healthcare and hospitalization.

  • Promotes coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression

  • Provides information, support, guidance, and coaching to parents, siblings, and other family members


Why are child life services important?

  • Because a child’s healthcare experience has potential to be a POSITIVE growth experience.

  • Anxiety and stress related to illness, separation, hospitalization, and medical encounters interfere with a child’s optimal response to medical treatment and care.

  • Interruption of normal life can put normal growth and development at risk.

  • Physical limitations of illness and healthcare encounters have potential to invite dependency and can erode self-esteem, if not tended to.

It does little good to tell your child “Don’t be scared.” Or “We don’t want you to worry.” It’s a lot more helpful to tell the child what TO do to make himself feel better.
— Kathleen McCue, How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness

How it Works

Coping Style and Needs Assessment

Before we our first call, I will ask you to fill out a questionnaire to help me ASSESS your child's stress vulnerability. 

Depending upon the child's age, I like to meet with the child (video conference) in your presence. I'll ask a few questions about what they know and understand. For teens, I prefer to work directly with the them.

Then, we make a PLAN together.

You'll carry out our plan (INTERVENTION) and then we'll meet again to EVALUATE and make adjustments for next time, if relevant.

All child life consultations include a minimum of two sessions (before and after) of approximately 40 minutes each.


Preparation and Coping Support 

Preparation is the communication of accurate, developmentally-appropriate information prior to a healthcare experience, including:

  • Reason for the procedure

  • Anticipated sequence of events

  • Sensory experiences

I guide parents in how to do this with their child, if these services are not available on site.  Together we design a coping plan and put together a comfort kit to help you and your child get through painful, anxiety-producing, and/or lengthy procedures.

Preparation support is also available if a child will be visiting a family member in a critical-care unit or attending a funeral.

Preparation and coping strategies for SEPARATION and TRANSITION are included in this package as well,

Play is the continuous evidence of creativity, which means aliveness.
— Doctor DW Winnicott, pediatrician, 1964
Disrupting the pain signals to the brain with alternate focus techniques.

Disrupting the pain signals to the brain with alternate focus techniques.

Education and Training

Child Education

  • Age-appropriate education for children regarding a particular health condition (their own, a family member's, or classmate's)

Adult Education

  • Individualized training for families, educators, and healthcare personnel around the psychosocial impacts of illness and hospitalization and how to be most supportive.