Child Life Specialty

About Child Life:
Certified Child Life Specialists (CCLSs) help reduce the stress and anxiety that many children experience in hospital and healthcare settings. Knowledge and application of foundations in theories of child development, play, stress and coping, and family systems are the basis for child life professional practice.

Child Life programs in health care settings promote optimum development of children and their families, to maintain normal living patterns and to minimize psychological trauma. Typically, CCLSs:

  • Provide preparation through medical play and support during medical procedures;
  • Facilitate developmental, therapeutic, and diversional play at bedside and in toddler, school-age and teen playrooms;
  • Cultivate parents and families as care partners and provide sibling support.

UW La Crosse and Child Life:

  • No one major course of study is required to become a Child Life Specialist (i.e. therapeutic recreation major, psychology major, etc.). See the Child Life Council @ for colleges that offer undergraduate and master’s degrees in Child Life.
  • UW-L does not offer a degree, minor or an emphasis in child life, but only offers elective coursework. The Therapeutic Recreation Program offers two face-to-face elective child life courses focusing on theory and psychosocial interventions.
  • Students are eligible to sit for both the Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist exam and the Child Life examination if they take the recommended coursework.
  • Students may complete a dual internship in therapeutic recreation and child life which is an extremely competitive placement, or
  • Students may complete an independent internship in child life after graduation and a required 640 hour therapeutic recreation internship in a pediatric setting.

For more information on this program, contact: Dr. Susan ‘BOON’ Murray, CCLS, CTRS, (608) 785-8199 or

Three fully online elective courses are available on a rotating basis Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Intersession.

  • These include: Pediatric Disabling Conditions, Helping Children Cope with Grief and Loss, and Coping and Pain Management in Children.
  • These courses are open to therapeutic recreation majors, psychology majors and any student who has completed a lifespan development course in psychology.
  • The fully online electives do not require any visits to campus and may be completed from a distance using Desire2Learn online courseware.
  • Each course addresses six facets of child life content that satisfies the Child Life Council ‘s requirement for completing one course taught by a Certified Child Life Specialist as a sitting requirement for certification.

For information about UW-L’s fully online child life courses, contact ad hoc instructor Rachael Kaiser, MS, CCLS @ who works as a CCLS in outpatient surgery and holds an online master’s degree in Family Studies.