If you are unfamiliar, child life specialists serve to help children and families cope with challenges that surround injury, illness, and death. We provide developmentally appropriate preparation, medical education, distraction, play and coping strategies to reduce anxiety, perceived pain and non-compliance with medical treatment for children facing these medical related experiences. Together, with each family and members of the medical team, we strive to make circumstances less scary and confusing. Our understanding of child development and social dynamics lends a hand to helping children cope with related challenging experiences, such as early childhood caregiver separation anxiety or building self-esteem with youth and teens.
Our academic training and clinical experience working with children and families in the medical setting has inspired many of us in the field to explore ways to apply our skills outside of the hospital walls to help others. Through blogging, social media, conferences, private practice and other community events, we are on a mission to make a difference helping other parents, caregivers and fellow pediatric health care professionals support families with the everyday challenges of raising children to the more serious and complicated life events.
Meet some of the dynamic child life specialists I share a tiny corner of the internet space with who inspire me with this mission to help others:
Shani Thorton, Child Life Mommy (California)
Shani is a certified child life specialist and a parent of two young boys, living in Northern California. She is an energetic, compassionate leader in the child life community, who loves to fill gaps in service. Shani created a child life and parenting website/blog, called ChildLifeMommy.com and uses social media to share her resources. She provides information to caregivers, child life specialists, students, educators and pediatric clinicians.
She launched a child life private practice in her community, providing home visits, phone consultations, caregiver workshops and support to local programs and schools. She published a children’s preparation book, “It’s Time For Your Checkup: What to Expect When Going to a Doctor Visit” and volunteers as a committee chair member for the Association of Child Life Professionals, Community-Based Non-Traditional Role Committee. She is also an adjunct faculty member at Bank Street College, co-teaching an online graduate child life course and works for a Texas based nonprofit, Standish Foundation for Children, that educates and trains medical providers in family centered care.
Randi Jaffe, Kid Cope Specialists (Hoboken, NJ)
Randi Jaffe is a certified child life specialist with a private practice, Kid Cope Specialists, in Hoboken, NJ. Kid Cope Specialists was developed after Randi became a new mom, took a leave from working at NYU Langone Medical Center, and recognized a gap in service in her community. Being armed with a strong background in child development and child life training provided Randi with the ability to confidently support and advocate for her own child and gave her the desire to help others. She saw children and families unprepared for many of life’s challenges — life transitions, school stressors, medical and dental fears, just to name a few. Randi recognized a need for child life supportive services and felt there was a genuine opportunity to provide children and families with coping tools to better prepare them for life’s difficult moments. Randi has also developed a program, “Cool Down Kids”, which she runs at a local occupational therapy clinic, teaching school-aged kids emotional regulation through hands-on strategies and techniques.
Diane Morales, Adventures in Child Life (Miami, FL)
Diane Morales runs the blog Adventures in Child Life and is a certified child life specialist on a surgery/orthopedic unit and in the NICU. When Diane first started to look into the field of child life, she wanted to catch a glimpse of what it was all about. She decided to start her own blog to document her journey as she says, “what an adventure it’s been!” Diane has been a certified child life specialist for 4 years and currently works in her hometown, Miami Florida, at a stand-alone children’s hospital. She also owns an ETSY shop, called Adventureinchildlife , where she sells various child life merchandise like tumblers and decal stickers. Follow along her adventure in child life and use her blog as a resource for ideas, news, and inspiration.
Please join me in celebrating these incredible and inspiring professionals! You can do so by subscribing to their blog and/or following them on social media. In honor of the work being done in and outside of hospital walls to support children and families we are doing an awesome GIVEAWAY over on Instagram. Be sure to find the related giveaway post on Dose of Play's Instagram page and follow the rules in the caption to enter.
What child life specialist in your community is making an impact and inspiring you? Let me know in the comments!