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Nurse and child playing together in playroom

From annual shots to surgery, child life specialists support your and your child’s needs during illness and hospitalization.

At Northwestern Medicine, your child is the captain of a multidisciplinary team consisting of physicians, nurses and social workers who are committed to providing the best care. Child life specialists are like the cheerleaders, encouraging your child play-by-play. Each child life specialist has earned a bachelor's or master's degree with an emphasis on human growth and development, education, psychology or a related field.

Where Will I Encounter a Child Life Specialist?

Child life services are available for children in many clinical areas, including pediatrics, pediatric intensive care, pediatric outpatient clinics, pediatric emergency department, radiology and surgery. Support in other clinical areas is available upon referral or request.

Fostering a Positive Experience

Child life specialists are dedicated to fostering an optimal healthcare experience for all children and families by supporting their individual needs. A big part of this is play.

Children learn and process information through therapeutic play. In addition to having medically free zones within each location where child life specialist support is offered, we also coordinate various play opportunities that are specifically designed to provide comfort, joy and relaxation for children.

Child life specialist support includes:

  • Relieving potential fear and anxiety
  • Preparing your child for medical tests, surgery and procedures with explanations and medical play appropriate for their developmental stage
  • Introducing your child to various relaxation and alternate pain management techniques including imagery, music and guided breathing
  • Encouraging self-expression through music, books and art
  • Addressing the needs of siblings affected by a child's illness or hospitalization
  • Providing support, guidance and community referral information for your family
  • Using technology as a form of distraction, entertainment and education
  • Supporting children of critically ill adult patients by providing grief support and memory building

Additional Programs for Your Child

  • Child life volunteers. A team of friendly faces—our specially trained volunteers—help create a non-threatening and welcoming environment for children. This includes plenty of play and self-expression through art, games and music.
  • Pre-surgery tours. Know before you go. Personalized tours are provided by a child life specialist to help gear your child up for scheduled surgery. For details, please contact the child life office at 630.933.PLAY (7529).
  • Animal visits. Certified and trained animals, including dogs and even mini horses, may visit your child to relieve stress and provide distraction.
  • Magician visits. Hospital magicians work one-on-one with children, using magic to encourage participation, engage the imagination and help pediatric patients find their own sense of confidence and mastery as they learn to perform tricks for their physicians, family and friends.
  • Pediatric bead program. Earn a colorful bead for each milestone. Our unique bead program helps pediatric patients with cancer and other serious conditions celebrate medical victories.
  • Special events and visitors. From holiday parties to special events to celebrity visits, there’s always something happening to engage your child during their hospitalization or treatment.
  • Resident artists. Your child may have the chance to sit with a professional artist to do creative writing, music and visual arts projects both one-on-one and in a group.
  • Pediatric patient recognition. We believe that it’s important to recognize your child’s efforts in overcoming medical challenges. We celebrate these through awards, certificates and small donated gifts.
    • Donation to pediatrics: The child life team welcomes donations to our supply of prizes including toys, games and books. Please see the Child Life Wish List for details.

Child Life Internships

northwestern-medicine-aclp-child-life-internship-sealChild life internships are offered for fall and spring terms (no summer placement) at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, with additional experiential opportunities at both Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Proton Center. Our internship schedule and requirements follow the guidelines set forth by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP). Please see our Internship Letter and Internship Placement Process for information. You may also visit ACLP for additional details at

Summer Practicum 

The Child life Summer Practicum serves as a way to empower and equip students on their journey to become child life interns and professionals. Practicum students will have the opportunity to shadow Certified Child Life Specialists and to gain exposure to various areas of the hospital, including a rotation at the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center and Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital. Please see the Practicum Placement Process and Requirements and Summer Practicum Application for more information.

Meet Your Child Life Specialists

Dora Castro-Ahillen, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Child Life Services Program Manager

Katie Loewen, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU

Mia DeRoin, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU

Bridget Hussey, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department and Inpatient Pediatrics/PICU

Katie Kass, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Diagnostic Imaging, Surgery

Aileen Maxwell, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital
Outpatient Pediatrics Clinics

Trina Krischon, CLS
Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital

Saige Spears, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Proton Center

Rachael Lange, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital

Kristin Hickman, CCLS
Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital


    Ronald McDonald House® near Central DuPage Hospital

    Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana (RMHC®-CNI) formed a relationship with Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital to open our fifth Ronald McDonald House®, expanding hospitality and support to families of hospitalized children.

    Volunteer Opportunities

    Our child life team is always looking for outstanding volunteers who are looking to help support our goal of providing exceptional care to all of our pediatric patients. If you have a desire to volunteer with children and are over the age of 21, complete our online application and contact the volunteer office.


    Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital is a collaborative program between Northwestern Memorial HealthCare and Lurie Children's and its affiliated physician groups. The physicians participating in this program are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital or Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital.


    The physicians who practice at the Northwestern Medicine Proton Center are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. These physicians have selected our facilities as the place where they want to treat and care for their private patients.