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Child Life Services: Helping kids be kids during injury and illness

It’s an obvious fact that children and adults are very different – they experience, behave, think, feel, and have different demands for almost everything in every single aspect of life. These differences also come into play when navigating a medical experience, which is why Child Life Specialists are so important to kids during injury or illness.

Child Life Specialist have unique training in child development, education, and psychology so they can provide patient and family-centered care using evidence-based, developmentally appropriate interventions. In other words, these healthcare providers help kids of all ages and stages to process big emotions and discomfort during treatments, as well as cope with the loss of their daily routines.

These providers prove time and again that they are invaluable to the patient experience. However, their services are often unbillable which makes it easy for health system to trim from budgets. This is why philanthropic funding is vital to the continuation of Child Life Services for children and their families.

From art to yoga therapy, here are four ways The Children’s Foundation supports Child Life Specialties at Children’s Hospital of Michigan — so that kids feel understood, supported, and free to process their experience both physically and mentally.

(If you’re wondering what is a day in the life of a Child Life Specialist, you can read this article about it here!)


Following a motor vehicle accident, 10-year-old Jayla was admitted to the in-patient rehabilitation unit suffering from a traumatic brain injury and general muscle weakness. Using a collaborative approach to treatment, the physical, recreational, and art therapy teams helped Jayden improve hand dexterity, gross motor skills, and processing of complex emotions related to the accident. During her month-long hospitalization, she created three paintings which unintentionally became a visual record of her rehabilitation progress. The first painting required a great deal of prompts and cues. As she continued to have co-treatment sessions, her paintings required less physical assistance and she developed a sense of empowerment expressing herself through artwork.


At 14-years-old, Amjad was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – a type of cancer bone and blood cancer that affects white blood cells. The life-threatening diagnosis created challenges every day – not only physically, as he was in great pain, but severe emotional distress as well. To complement his treatment plan, doctors suggested Amjad may benefit from yoga therapy. The mind-body practice helped regulated his nervous system using postures and movement, breathing exercises, and meditation. As a result, he collected a variety of tools to soothe him during the most challenging of times which ultimately improved his spirits and energy levels which helped healing.


Eighteen month-old Samuel should have been bursting with energy and reaching daily milestones. Instead, he was spending toddlerhood confined to a hospital room as he awaited a new heart. But thanks to music therapy sessions, he could participate in sensory stimulation and developmental play while also having great fun. He played the guitar, kazoo, and released some energy as he his sang favorite songs over and over (as toddlers do!).


In tenth grade, Mason received diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma Stage IV. His cancer treatment plan meant he would spend the rest of the academic year in the hospital. From physics to philosophy, he was determined to stay on top of his education – and thankfully he could do so on-location with support from a Child Life schoolteacher.  Mason and the schoolteacher maintained the required curriculum even using interactive play and performing a puppet show of Hamlet so he could ace his British Literature exams. Individualized learning like this helped Mason keep on the gradation track, even though he missed half the school year.

Help us improve the health and wellness of more children and families.

You can help us reach more children and families by making a gift to The Children’s Foundation. Click here to make your gift.

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