Child Life Specialists act as a bridge and advocate for families navigating the healthcare system. Their specific focus is on a child and family’s emotional health as they face stressful, scary or painful procedures and treatments due to a medical condition. They are trained in a variety of areas including child development, play theory, anatomy, research methodology, sociocultural issues, ethics, family systems and bereavement. They can even help schools understand the needs of children facing chronic illness when they return to the classroom. For those families affected with ichthyosis, a Child Life Specialist can truly be a lifeline.

Typically, these specialists are employed in a medical setting as they are vital members of a multidisciplinary team in most large pediatric facilities, as well as many smaller pediatric inpatient units. Additionally, they often service specialty areas like the emergency department, surgical and intensive care units, and outpatient units. Some Child Life Specialists are also available to meet the needs of children of adult patients. 

Although child life has its traditional foundations in hospitals, an increasing number of child life specialists are also applying their unique expertise to help children in other environments, including outpatient healthcare facilities, doctors’ offices, hospice care, specialized camps, schools, court systems, and funeral homes. Whatever the location, child life interventions focus on the individual needs of the child and family.

FIRST former board president, Deb Vilas, affected with congenital ichthyosiform erythroderma (CIE), has chosen this very area of specialty. She is a Certified Child Life Specialist, who focuses in the area of “play.” As she helps children and parents through hospitalization, loss and developmental challenges, Deb says, “I see play as a child’s primary language and modality for self-expression and healing. I teach and coach adults how to provide meaningful and therapeutic play experiences for children. I promote open-ended, child-centered play and connecting with nature, discovery and co-creating meaning.” Deb is available online and in person in New York City. Please feel free to contact her about child life, consultation, public speaking appearances, supervision, and workshops at

You can learn more about Deb’s unique philosophy and specialty on her blog at Learn more about child life consultation at  Child Life Council.

This video, produced by the Child Life Council and launched in March 2015, highlights the adoption of child life services at Rochester Regional Hospital and explores the many benefits of connecting with a Child Life Specialist. Deb Vilas, a subject expert, is featured in the video.

Share This Page: