Child life specialist are an integral part of the healthcare team, and a valuable partner for you and your family during your child’s hospitalization. Professional child life specialists are available to provide support to pediatric patients and their families throughout Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital including pediatrics, pediatric intensive care, pediatric outpatient clinics, pediatric emergency department, radiology, surgery and other areas upon referral. Child life specialists are also available at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center2.
Multidisciplinary team approach
Child life specialists are members of your interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses and social workers that are committed to providing the very best medical care for your child. They are professionally trained to support the psychosocial needs of hospitalized children and their families. Each has earned a bachelor's or master's degree with an emphasis on human growth and development, education, psychology or a related field.
The importance of play
Our medical team views play as an important aspect of healing and acknowledges that children learn and process information through therapeutic play. In addition to having ‘medically free zones’ within each site, we also coordinate various ‘play’ opportunities that are specifically designed to provide comfort, joy and relaxation to our pediatric population. The goal of child life support includes the following:
- Relieve potential fear and anxiety of pediatric patients through therapeutic play and procedural support
- Prepare children for medical tests, surgery and procedures by providing developmentally appropriate explanations and opportunities for medical play
- Introduce pediatric patients to various relaxation and alternate pain management techniques including imagery, music and guided breathing
- Encourage self-expression through music, literature and creative art activities
- Address the needs of siblings affected by a child's illness/hospitalization
- Provide support, guidance and community referral information to families specific to various diagnosis
- Incorporate the use of technology as a form of distraction, entertainment and education
- Support children of critically ill adult patients by providing grief support and memory building
Various programs coordinated by our team of child life specialists are specifically designed to reduce the negative impact of illness and may help to empower your child to heal more quickly. Child life supportive programming includes:
- Child Life Volunteers: Specially trained volunteers work directly with child life specialists to create a non-threatening and welcoming environments for children, while providing opportunities for play and self-expression through art, games and music.
- Pre-Surgery Tours: Personalized tours are provided by a child life specialist to any pediatric patient scheduled for surgery. For details please contact the child life office at 630.933.PLAY (7529).
- Animal Visits: Certified and trained animals, including dogs and mini horses visit with our pediatric population.
- Magician Visits: Hospital magicians work one-on-one with children, using magic as a means to encourage participation, engage the imagination and help these pediatric patients find their own sense of confidence and mastery as they learn to perform the tricks for their doctors, families and friends.
- Pediatric Bead Program: Our unique bead program supports pediatric patients coping with the challenges of cancer, and other serious conditions by offering colorful beads representing each medical milestone.
- Special Events and Visitors: The child life team organizes several activities throughout the year including holiday parties, celebrity visits and special events targeting the pediatric population.
- Pediatric Patient Recognition: Child life encourages recognition of the efforts of pediatric patients facing and overcoming medical challenges through the creation and distribution of various awards, certificates and small donated gifts.
- Resident Artists: Professional artists in creative writing, music and visual arts visit pediatric patients offering opportunities to create individual and group projects.
- Donation to Pediatrics: Dedicated to providing comfort, distraction and rewards to children undergoing medical challenges, the child life team welcomes, organizes and distributes donations of new gifts to our supply of ‘prizes’(toys, games, books, etc.). Please see the Child Life Wish List for details.
Child life internships
Child life internships are offered for Fall and Spring terms (no Summer placement) at Central DuPage Hospital, with additional experiential opportunities at both Delnor Hospital and the Chicago Proton Center. Our internships schedule and requirements follow the guidelines as 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 www.childlife.org.
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 be exposed to various areas of the hospital, including a rotation at the Northwestern Medicine Chicago Proton Center. Please see the Practicum Placement Process and Requirements and Summer Practicum Application for more information.
Meet your Child Life Specialists
Dora Castro-Ahillen, CCLS
Child Life Coordinator
Central DuPage Hospital In-Patient
Danielle Fleckenstein, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Pediatric Emergency Department
Ginger Manzella, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital
Diagnostic Imaging, Surgery
Allie Jones, CCLS
Central DuPage Hospital Peds Outpatient
Clinics, In-Patient Peds/PICU
Trina Krischon, CLS
Aileen Maxwell, CCLS
Chicago Proton Center
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 Chicago 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.