Human Development and Family Science (HDFS) - George Mason University

Child Life Specialist

Child life specialists are pediatric health care professionals who work with children and families in hospitals and other settings to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability.

What is a Child Life Specialist?

Child life specialists are trained professionals who promote child well-being by:

  • Supporting effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities.
  • Providing emotional support for families, and encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization.
  • Providing information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.
  • Educating caregivers, administrators, and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

To become certified as a Child Life Specialist, you must take HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family. This fully online course is offered by the Human Development and Family Science program and is taught by Jamie Gentille, a Certified Child Life Specialist. This course is required for those students seeking Certification as a Child Life Specialist by the Association of Child Life Professionals and is now pre-approved by the association.

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HDFS 301 - The Hospitalized Child and Family

  • Examines the philosophy, purposes, and concepts of Child Life Specialists.
  • Explores developmental and psychological needs of hospitalized children, their families, and those who provide services to children.
  • Examines the impact of illness and illness-related stress on the dynamics of the family and strategies for coping.

Prerequisite(s): HDFS 200 or permission from instructor