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Child Life Specialists

What Is a Child Life Specialist?

Lurie Children’s tries dilige​ntly to be sure that the hospital is not a scary environment for our patients and families. A child life specialist is a trained professional who helps children and their families understand and normalize the hospital environment. They are skilled at providing developmentally appropriate support, preparation and therapeutic play opportunities to decrease anxieties associated with being in the hospital. 

Lurie Children’s has child life specialists located at our main hospital and also at our outpatient satellite locations who are there to help your child understand their diagnosis or procedure in an age-appropriate way. They also help support siblings, guide families through bereavement and assist in legacy making. 

Lurie Children’s Child Life Specialists assess, support and advocate for each child’s physical and emotional needs. Beth Ryan, Senior Child Life Specialist, works with patients in the hospital’s Lekotek program, a therapeutic, play-based initiative that supports the development of children with special needs. Watch this special moment where therapeutic play makes a young boy’s day.


Our Services

As members of your child's healthcare team, child life specialists partner with families to tailor interventions to best meet each child’s individual needs. They provide:

  • Preparation before surgery, exams and other potentially anxiety-provoking experiences by using developmentally appropriate language, books and other teaching materials to reduce stress and increase understanding. View a few resources below: 
  • Medical play by using specially adapted dolls, as well as real and pretend medical equipment, to enhance understanding and clarify misconceptions.
  • Help to manage pain and encourage relaxation by offering various techniques such as comfort positioning, guided imagery and deep breathing exercises.
  • Procedural support by modeling positive coping strategies using developmentally appropriate items such as bubbles, viewmasters and books.
  • Sibling support to help siblings understand what is happening, help them work through their feelings and answer their questions about the hospital experience.
  • Bereavement support by providing support and resources for grief and bereavement issues.
  • Support for children with special needs by individualizing care and adapting the environment for specialized learning and coping. This support occurs with collaboration with our Lekotek program. Please feel free to fill out the survey below prior to your appointment or admission and bring it with you to better inform our staff about your child’s special needs. Patient and Family Coping Questionnaire

Request a Child Life Specialist

To request a child life specialist, call 312.227.3270 or from inside the hospital, ask a member of your medical team to page a child life specialist. We are available seven days a week, 365 days a year.  

Please fill out the caregiver survey prior to your appointment or visit to help us better understand your child’s individual needs. Download the Patient and Family Coping Questionnaire.

Child Life Internship

If you’re interested in becoming a child life specialist, apply for one of our internships or practicums, and read through the frequently asked questions​.


Learn more about the role of child life specialists by visiting the National Child Life Council.

For a list of books, movies and apps that may be helpful for children in the hospital, reference our Resource List.

View our Resource List

Meet Our Child Life Specialists

Our child life specialists all work in different areas with different units, so their day-to-day tasks can vary greatly. Take a look at their information below to learn which child life specialist might be working with your child.

Rebecca Meyers, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3267rmeyers@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. — Child Life Manager

Amanda Anderson MS, CCLS | 312.227.2932 | asanderson@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m. — Protective Services Team/Safety and Well-Being Clinic (Outpatient Center in Lincoln Park)

Elizabeth Ciesielski, BS, CCLS | 312.227.3287eciesielski@luriechildrens.org | Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Certified Child Life Specialist
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. — Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-oncology (Main Hospital)  

Maegan Cobb, CCLS | 312.227.0218 | mcobb@luriechildrens.orgAvailable Wednesday through Saturday, 2 p.m.–12 a.m. — Emergency Department (Main Hospital) 

Emilia C. Crnjak, MS, CCLS | 312.274.8934ecrnjak@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. – Neonatal intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Lori A. Esch, MS, CCLS | 312.227.7925lesch@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.–2:30 p.m. — Outpatient Center in Westchester

Gillian Fiandaca, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3287 | gfiandaca@luriechildrens.org  
Available Monday through Friday,  8:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Stem Cell Transplant and Hematology/Oncology Beads of Courage (Main Hospital)

Cecilia Gonzalez, MS, CCLS312.227.3942 | cgonzalez@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. — Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Leah Hoelscher MS, CCLS | 312.227.2267 | lhoelscher@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. — MRI, Cardiac Cath (Main Hospital)

Geanine Hunt, M.Ed., CCLS | 312.227.2731ghunt@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. — Northbrook Surgery & MRI Center

Angela Hyland, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3334 | ahyland@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)

Amanda McGee, BS, CCLS | 312.227.6397 | ammcgee@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. – Child Life Supported CE-VUS/VCUG (Main Hospital); Available Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. — Clark/Deming Outpatient Clinics

Becca Mitsos, BS, CCLS | 312.227.3273rmitsos@luriechildrens.org
Available Tuesday through Friday, 6 a.m.–4:30 p.m. - Surgical Services (Main Hospital)

Shreya Patel, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3274 | shreyapatel@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.–3:30 p.m. – Fluoro, X-Ray, Ultrasound, Nuclear Medicine, PET/CT, CT, IR  (Main Hospital)

Katherine Roach, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3253 | kroach@luriechildrens.org 
Available Sunday through Wednesday, 2 p.m.–12 a.m. — Emergency Department (Main Hospital)

Emily Rogers, MS, CCLS312.227.2931erogers@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m. — Outpatient Center in Skokie (every Monday, Tuesday and the 2nd & 4th Fridays of the month); Outpatient Center in Lincoln Park (every Wednesday, Thursday and the 1st, 3rd and 5th Fridays of the month)

Beth K. Ryan, M.Ed., CCLS | 312.227.6398bkryan@luriechildrens.org | Eva Marianne Certified Child Life Specialist
Available Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m.–5 p.m.; Thursday, 7 a.m.–3 p.m. — Clark/Deming Outpatient Clinics, Lekotek Leader (Outpatient Center in Lincoln Park)

Samantha Sawalski, CCLS, CTRS | 312.227.7115 | ssawalski@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. — Neuromuscular/Spinraza dosing (Main Hospital)

Natalie Sell, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3363 | nsell@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Pulmonology and General Medicine (Main Hospital)

Brittany Smith, M.A, FLE, CCLS | 312.227.3347basmith@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m. — Child Life Practicum Coordinator, 20th Floor Acute Inpatient (Main Hospital) 

Marlee Speak, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3294 | mspeak@luriechildrens.org | Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation Certified Child Life Specialist
Available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m.–4 p.m. — Outpatient Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-oncology (Main Hospital)

Jessica Van Voorhis, MS, CCLS | 312.227.3273 | jevanvoorhis@luriechildrens.org
Available Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m.–3 p.m. – Surgical Services (Main Hospital)

Katelyn Zilles, CCLS | 312.227.3266 | kzilles@luriechildrens.org 
Available Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.–5:30 p.m. — Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (Main Hospital)