Child life specialists converge in Phoenix

More than 900 child life professionals, educators and students will be at The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown today through Sunday for the largest annual gathering of child life specialists in the world.

The 28th annual event is being hosted by the Child Life Council (

Child life specialists are experts in child development who encourage optimum development of children facing a broad range of challenging experiences, particularly those related to healthcare and hospitalization. They promote effective coping through play, preparation, education, and self-expression activities. They provide emotional support for families and also play a vital role in educating caregivers, administrators and the general public about the needs of children under stress.

Conference attendees will choose from more than 50 educational sessions in which they’ll learn everything from practical hands-on techniques to the latest developments in child life research and theory. Child life specialists from a diverse group of nations, including the US, Canada, Mexico, Italy, Serbia, Israel, Kuwait, China, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand are attending.

The Local Conference Planning committee is comprised of child life specialists from many Arizona programs, including: Phoenix Children’s Hospital; Cardon Children’s Medical Center, Banner Thunderbird Medical Center, Tucson Medical Center, University Medical Center, Children’s Rehabilitative Services, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, Scottsdale Healthcare, Ryan House and John C. Lincoln – Deer Valley.

Eight-year-old Sarah plays with then Child Life Specialist Heather Walton. Photo courtesy of Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Read about Sarah Maurer a former cancer patient at Phoenix Children’s Hospital who is pursuing a career as a child life specialist.

Listen to Sarah talk about her experience with childhood cancer.