What is a child life specialist?

I am a teacher,
A helping hand,
A support,
An advocate,
An active listener,
A therapeutic touch,
And a child development specialist

A distraction provider,
An inpatient support,
And a guide and voice for siblings
All in the same day.

I am calm despite cancer, CAT scans, and catheters.
I am strong in the face of syncope, sickle cell, and surgery.
Kids can’t always do these things for themselves.
That’s why I’m here.

I am deliberate in all of my actions and words
Because I use the language of children
And it has power.
I am flexible and go where I’m needed
Because children can’t always be flexible
About when they’re going to freak.

I am not here to merely play with children,
give them toys, and distract them
With “SpongeBob”.

I’m a Child Life Specialist.
When kids say they can’t, I tell them they can.
Steve Slowinski-excerpt


Beth Kreyling, Gilchrist Kids Child Life Specialist

A child life specialist is a teacher, a playmate, an explorer, a support when it gets scary, and interpreter for when it’s confusing, and a friend when it’s lonely. Children facing illness, and possibly death, have their entire lives changed. They are in new places, with new faces, and facing questions, tests, and fear they’ve never imagined before. As a child life specialist, I am honored to work with these children, help them communicate their fears, and their strengths, explore the unknown, teach them what they are searching to understand, be present with them, and through it all, help them find ways to keep their childhood intact.

As a child life specialist in hospice, I work to help our pediatric patients to find joy and play despite their physical limitations. From tactile finger painting, to creating word games and puzzles, or being trounced on a gaming system, I try to create opportunities that our patients can forget their illnesses and focus on being kids. Sometimes we talk about the scary things; zombies and monsters from the movies, or the big sickness that everyone is sad about. Other times we create songs, crafts and just share a laugh.

In hospice, a child life specialist works with patients, siblings, and grieving children, trying to help all of them make sense of a tough truth; that someone they love; be it themselves, their brother or sister, or mom, dad, grandparent, etc, is dying. And yet, we don’t focus on dying; we sit with it, face it, but focus on living, and living with as much spirit and spunk as any child in the world. And I, as a child life specialist, get to be a part of witnessing that spirit, sharing in it, encouraging it, and be inspired by it.

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