School to propose child-life option for education majors

Injuries, painful procedures and prolonged stays at hospitals can increase a child’s anxiety and fears. However, students may soon have an opportunity to study a field that works to alleviate a child’s stress when hospitalized.

A child-life option within the School of Education will be proposed in March. If approved by the faculty, undergraduate and graduate councils before the end of the semester, the program will be available for students beginning next fall, said Mary Patton, associate professor of early childhood education.

Patton said if approved, it will be available as a graduate option for counseling majors and early childhood education majors in the three-two program, an option that allows students to combine a bachelor’s degree with a Master of Education in five years.

Along with Texas State University, TCU would be the only other university in Texas to have a child-life program.

Students interested in the field will be expected to take courses in areas such as child development, family dynamics, sociology, counseling and expressive therapy, Patton said.

“This added option would help significantly,” said Ashton Niemann, junior early childhood education major. “It would allow students more opportunities to go directly into the graduate program and not be limited in choices for those who plan to pursue a job as a child-life specialist.”

Child-life specialists are also referred to as “play therapists” and are experts in child development. They encourage children to cope with difficult medical situations through play, education and self expression, Patton said.

“I think this is a response to student interest and a need in the field of child life,” Patton said. “We always try to be on the cutting edge for programs students are interested in and ones in which we are able to find a foundation for.”

Sharon McLeod, senior clinical director of the child-life department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said individuals who participate in child-life programs do better on the certification exam that graduates are required to take before becoming a specialist.

McLeod said she interviews people wanting to obtain a child-life position and has noticed that the ones who have gone through the program during college are stronger candidates for employment.

“I think the College of Education has a reputation of preparing remarkable teachers of young children,” Patton said. “Our graduates are in great demand throughout the state and I think this initiative is another option responsive to the needs of the community.”