Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS)

The Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) offers the only program to certify child life professionals. According to ACLP, Certified Child Life Specialists are educated and clinically trained in the developmental impact of illness and injury. Their role helps improve patient and family care, satisfaction, and overall experience.

Infants, children and youth confront a wide variety of stressful and potentially traumatic events that can impact their ability to cope. These experiences related to healthcare can lead to feelings of fear, confusion, loss of control and isolation that can inhibit their development and have negative effects on their physical and emotional health and well-being.

In both healthcare and community settings, Certified Child Life Specialists help infants, children, youth and families cope with the stress and uncertainty of acute and chronic illness, injury, trauma, disability, loss and bereavement. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions including therapeutic play, preparation for procedures, and education to reduce fear, anxiety, and pain.

ACLP has a list of courses required to become a CCLS, and NDSU offers courses intended to fit all of those requirements. The final determination of whether any course will be accepted as fulfilling a certification requirement rests with ACLP. HDFS students in the child and adolescent development option are already taking many of these courses for their graduation requirements and will just need to take the remaining courses in the list below. HDFS students in other options may also prepare for certification by taking all of the courses in the list below.

Following is a list of the NDSU courses intended to correspond to the courses required by ACLP to become a CCLS

  • HDFS 250 Introduction to Research Methods
  • HDFS 320 Prenatal, Infant and Toddler Development
  • HDFS 330 Child Development
  • HDFS 340 Adolescent Development
  • HDFS 341 Parent-Child Relations
  • HDFS 350 Fundamentals of Hospital Child Life
  • HDFS 483 Best Practices, Play and Activities from Birth Through Adolescence
  • HDFS 496 Field Experience
  • SOC /ANTH 441 Death and Dying
  • BIOL 220 Human Anatomy and Physiology
  • CHP 125 Medical Terminology for Health Professionals (1 credit)
  • PHIL 210 Ethics

For certification as a CCLS, ACLP also requires a 600-hour internship, which can be completed either before or after graduation. This is separate from HDFS 496 Field Experience.

After the internship, a certification exam is also required.

Here is more information about becoming a child life specialist. 


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