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Child Life Program

The Child Life Program aims to ease fears and decrease the stress of hospitalization through promoting positive coping skills for pediatric patients and families. Our Certified Child Life Specialists are specifically trained at the bachelor’s or master’s level in child development and understand the unique stressors that pediatric patients and their families face when entering the hospital. Our specialists partner with the patient, family and other members of the health care team to help make the hard parts of being at the hospital more manageable based on the child and family’s unique needs.

Child Life Specialists utilize a variety of research-based interventions to support infants through teenagers and their families throughout their hospitalization including:

Developmentally-Appropriate Preparation

Child Life Specialists help pediatric patients and their families understand procedures in words that make sense to them. They help explain what they will see, feel, hear, smell, and taste and provide opportunities to explore medical equipment. Knowing what to expect can help decrease anxiety and increase cooperation during procedures. They also provide preparation for transferring to another unit or visiting someone in the ICU.

Procedural Support

Child Life Specialists partner with patients and families to develop a coping plan to provide a sense of control and help patients remain calmer. Patients can choose a form of distraction such as a favorite toy or a game to play on the tablet, take deep breaths, or watch the procedure depending on their coping style. Child Life Specialists can also help caregivers decide how they would like to help support their child during procedures.

Medical Play

Child Life Specialists use medical play dolls and medical supplies to give patients and siblings opportunities to explore and process feelings related to their health care experiences. This promotes understanding and decreases fear and anxiety while providing a sense of mastery and control.

Therapeutic Conversations

Child Life Specialists creatively engage with children and teenagers to provide opportunities for them to express fears, concerns and frustrations that arise as a result of hospitalization. They validate feelings, correct misconceptions, and advocate for the needs and wants of each patient and family. Child Life Specialists also help patients and families face difficult conversations regarding a new diagnosis, illness or trauma.


Child Life Specialists use play to help children adjust to hospitalization and illness while also promoting normal growth and development. Play provides opportunities for children and teens to have fun and continue to feel as though they are able to still be kids while in the hospital setting. Play energizes and encourages healing, and Child Life Specialists can creatively use play to help meet health care goals in a non-threatening way.

Bereavement Support

Child Life Specialists can help support children and families during end-of-life situations and can help explain death to children in ways that are understandable and age-appropriate. They can provide opportunities for memory-making by creating handprints, facilitating family art projects, and collecting locks of hair. Child Life Specialists also provide resources for ongoing grief support.

Sibling Support

Child Life Specialists provide support to siblings through explaining the health care needs of their brother or sister, using play to provide a sense of normalcy and to assess their specific needs, and creatively helping the siblings feel connected to their hospitalized brother or sister through activities provided for parents to take home.

Other services provided include:

Certified Child Life Specialists currently serve patients in Pediatrics, Pediatric ICU, Pediatric ER, Surgery, Radiology, Endoscopy, Neonatal ICU and the St. Jude Affiliate Clinic at Huntsville Hospital for Women & Children. When available, they also provide support to children of adult patients at Huntsville Hospital.

To donate toys or resources to help our patients and families, please see our wish list or contact us.

For additional information or to contact the Child Life Program, please call (256) 265-7242.