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Niswonger Child Life Services


About Our Specialists

On your child’s team are child life specialists who dedicate themselves to making your child’s hospital experience as positive as possible. Children visiting or staying in the hospital may experience fear, confusion and unfamiliarity. With the help of a child life specialist, children can master these feelings through play, education and support. Child life specialists help infants up to adolescents cope with illness, hospitalization and separation from home, routine and friends.

Through play, child life specialists assess your child’s coping style and help your child develop trust and understanding of his/her illness and treatments and be able to express thoughts and feelings. They use teaching tools, special dolls and medical equipment to explain treatments and procedures. Child life specialists also help children develop coping strategies like imagery, distraction and relaxation to reduce anxiety during these events.

Child life specialists work closely with children and families to ensure that each child’s developmental, emotional and psychosocial needs are being met while they are cared for at Niswonger Children’s Hospital. They are an integral part of the healthcare team.


The Child Life Department offers a number of services designed to make the hospital experience as positive as possible for both patients and their families. These services include:

  • Activities and explanations about medical events in a manner that a child can understand
  • Therapeutic play and interventions, including medical play that promotes coping skills and fosters continued growth and development
  • Procedural and surgical preparation, support, coping education and pain management before, during and after a stressful event (such as an IV start, blood draw, MRI, surgery, etc.).
  • Advocacy for family-centered care through family and sibling support
  • Sibling visits for long-term or critically ill patients • Bereavement support
  • Coordinated holiday celebrations, visits from community groups, pet therapy and special visitor events
  • Education on growth, development and reactions to hospitalization
  • Support or preparation to return to school after extended hospitalization or change in physical appearance

When Should You Call Child Life?

Call Child Life when a child:

  • Needs preparation for an upcoming procedure (i.e. IV start, surgery, etc.)
  • Needs relaxation/distraction techniques
  • Experiences the loss of a parent or sibling
  • Has been separated from his or her caregiver
  • Needs a visit from his/her siblings
  • May be admitted to the hospital
  • Requires age-appropriate activities