Much like the majority of the population, I had no idea what a child life specialist was until I decided to submerge myself in hours of research looking for the perfect career path for myself. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a “child life specialist”. The position title is pretty vague, but also very specific, if that makes any sense. We, quite literally, specialize in a child’s life. As a student, I can vouch for all child life professionals when I say that we KNOW our child development theories. Almost every single class I’ve taken has been centered around theorists that I’ve grown to love and hate so much at the same time.
However, child life specialists stand out from other professions that are child-centered because they specialize in working with children in a healthcare setting. They focus on helping children and their families get through some of life’s most difficult situations. Child life specialists focus on implementing coping strategies through preparation, play, and education. They are there for sibling and familial support, and they strive to make a child’s life as normal as possible while in a healthcare setting.
As a student, I get asked a lot about what I am studying. It’s still sometimes difficult for me to explain to others, because it’s so much more than being a “play lady” in the hospital. My go-to line is, “I am studying to work with children in the hospital or other healthcare setting, helping them cope with and understand their diagnosis, while also teaching the family members about the diagnosis and supporting them as well.”
For a more detailed, official description of what exactly it is that a child life specialist does, I highly encourage you to visit the Child Life Council’s Website. It’s where I got all of my information before diving head first into this adventure, and they pretty much know everything there is to know about the child life world.