Child Life Program in Orlando

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Child Life Program, Orlando

The Child Life Department at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida helps children and families cope with medical treatment, diagnosis, and hospitalization through play, preparation, education and self-expression.

How to Request a Child Life Visit

To request a visit from a child life specialist during an inpatient stay or an outpatient appointment, please email Supervisor of Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy, Jenna Read.

To request a pre-surgery tour for your child with a child life specialist, please email Jamie Ruggiero.


What We Do

Child Life specialists are child development experts who help ensure that life remains as normal as possible for children in health care settings and other challenging environments. We promote effective coping through play, self-expressive activities, and age-appropriate medical preparation and education. Our areas of focus include:


Play & Self-Expressive Activities

A child’s job is to play. We encourage children to play, whether at bedside or in our play and teen spaces within the hospital. We use art, music and creative therapies to promote your child’s development.

Play Spaces for Children & Teens

Kids of all ages want to explore, play, and laugh, no matter where they are — even in the hospital. Often a child’s choices are limited in the hospital setting, but not at Nemours.

As a hospital built by families, for families, Nemours Children's Hospital is a bright, inviting place where cozy reading nooks are carved into walls, interactive games provide fun and learning experiences, and special spaces and activities — especially designed for kids — enhance creative play and expression.

Hospital Play Spaces are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., 7 days a week. Our spaces are fun places made for patients and families to escape the stressors of the hospital. These spaces are safe zones where kids can find normal play activities away from medical procedures, equipment and exams.

You can find a play space here:

  • Third Floor Teen Space: for adolescents ages 12 years and older
  • Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Floor Play Space: for children of all ages, geared toward 12 years and younger

Please note that patients, siblings and visitors under 12 must be accompanied by an adult while they play.

Medical Play

Our Child Life specialists use real and pretend medical equipment to give your child a chance to play through medical experiences by sharing feelings, concerns and fears.


It’s natural for a child to be anxious about a hospital or clinic visit, but it helps to know what to expect. We help explain procedures and surgery using your child’s five senses and medical materials.

Coping and Distraction

During medical procedures, Child Life specialists offer a variety of tools to re-direct your child’s attention to decrease anxiety and increase cooperation. Techniques may include relaxation, deep breathing and guided imagery. We also help your child — and family — draw on your own coping strengths.

Emotional Support

Our Child Life specialists provide psychosocial support to help your child cope with health care experiences and work through feelings such as fear, anger, sadness or guilt.


Enjoyment — like a good laugh — is an important part of healing. We organize a variety of activities and events for kids of all ages, including visits from special guests and small group or one-on-one activities in our play spaces.


Child Life specialists offer comfort, support and memorial activities for families when needed.

Creative Arts Therapy

Music therapy and art therapy are based on science and are safe. At Nemours Children's Hospital, Florida, we have board-certified music and art therapists to visit patients and meet their individual needs. Learn More

Therapeutic Gaming

We have a pediatric gaming technology specialist funded by Child’s Play Charity who creates gaming and technology experiences for patients. In addition, they help educate clinicians on the importance of gaming as a tool for patient distraction and coping. Virtual reality, augmented reality and traditional gaming are used to get patients out of bed and moving daily while hospitalized.

School Program

Our School Program provides patients with sense of normalcy and structure during their hospital stay. Our hospital teacher can provide individualized instruction and communicate with your child’s school and help with return-to-school planning. Learn More

Our Child Life specialists are trained to understand the different ways children deal with stress, fear, confusion, anger, guilt and sadness. We will develop coping strategies specific to your child’s individual needs, and will also provide parents, siblings and other family members with information, support and guidance when necessary

Be Part of Our Child Life Program

Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida welcomes visitors and volunteers from our community to participate in our Child Life activities.

Volunteer Opportunities

Volunteers help the Child Life Program in so many ways.

Find Out How to Become a Hospital Volunteer

Special Event Visitors

All special guests and visitors must apply and be approved prior to visiting Nemours Children’s Hospital, Florida. To provide a positive experience for special visitors, patients, and families at the hospital, all visitors must review and agree to these guidelines and submit the below application.

Guidelines for Special Event Visitors

  • All special visits must be prearranged at least 2 weeks before the visit date. All guests and visitors must fill out the special visit application and be notified of approval before they arrive at the hospital.
  • All individuals must check in at Security and receive an identification badge and must be accompanied by a Nemours Children’s Hospital Child Life staff member while in the hospital.
  • The number of guests and visitors will be limited to 5 people and all participants must be 18+ years of age and out of high school.
  • Photos and recordings of patients and families are not permitted.
  • During winter months, when there is increased concern for infection control, visits will be limited.
  • Any toys, prizes or gifts that will be donated or handed out to patients and families MUST be prearranged and approved prior to your event.
  • All group members will respect patient confidentiality. Information gained during the visits must NOT be discussed or shared outside the hospital.
  • All group members will follow directions of hospital staff and Child Life team.
  • Many of our patients are extremely susceptible to infection and must be protected from exposure. Please do not visit if you are sick. You must be free of any illness or symptoms for at least 48 hours.
  • We have patients representing a wide variety of religious beliefs. No religious materials may be given out or taught.
  • Donations for the patients are very much appreciated. Donations are used throughout the year as birthday presents and daily use in the playroom. Please visit our "Donations" tab above to review our donation guidelines and wish lists if you wish to make a general donation unrelated to your event.

Special Event Planning Guide


  • Patient events are scheduled from 11 to noon, 1-2 p.m., and 2-3 p.m. Monday–Friday. The following time slots are not available due to regularly scheduled activities
    • Third Thursday of the month in the afternoon
    • Fourth Tuesday of the month
    • Fourth Thursday of the month

Examples of Events

  • Group craft activity
  • Board game play
  • Small group bedside performances (musical or dance)

To note: Your group is responsible for providing all activity supplies, your activities must be preapproved, and your group must consist of 5 people or less all 18 years of age or older. When planning for a craft activity, plan for all age patients and plan supplies for 15–20 children. This allows projects to be delivered to patients who are unable to leave their rooms.

Apply to be a Special Event Visitor

Due to the volume of requests received, we cannot accommodate all requests. Special guests must apply using the form below at least 4 weeks before your proposed event for your application to be considered. Once your application has been received, please allow up to 2 weeks for a response from our Child Life Department on whether or not your event has been approved. Special event visitors that arrive at the hospital without prior approval will be turned away.

Make a Gift or Donation

Due to COVID-19, our Toy Drive will be virtual this year, and we need your help.

As you might expect, the pandemic is making it challenging to bring smiles to the faces of the children in our hospital. In past years, we've relied on toy drives to pass along donated toys and games to the kids in our care. But to keep our patients, families, staff — and you — safe and healthy, we've made our toy drive virtual this year.

Please consider making a financial donation to our drive, we've even created an option for groups to give together — on our Virtual Toy Drive page, you'll see options to create a fundraising team or give to an existing fundraising team.

Thank you so much for supporting our kids in the past with donations of toys and games. And thanks in advance for any assistance you can give this year.

Wish List

Child Life Amazon Wish List

The Child Life Team

A Child Life specialist is a member of the health care team who is a graduate of a bachelor’s or master’s program in education, human growth and development, psychology, or counseling, and certified through the Association of Child Life professionals (ACLP). We’re equipped to handle a child’s unique way of dealing with a traumatic experience like an illness or injury — and we can help you feel confident doing the same with your child.

Meet our Child Life Team at Nemours Children's Hospital, Florida

Our child life team brings smiles and joy to patients during their stay in our hospitals. Watch this video to see the magic behind what a Child Life team does. You'll understand why our patients love their Child Life specialist so much.

Meet the Team

Gloria Leyva, MS, CCLS

Lead Programming Child Life Specialist
Acute Care

Kristin Brown, CCLS

Child Life Specialist
Emergency Department

Kelly Burns, MA, LMHC-QS, ATR-BC

Art Therapist
Inpatient Rehab, Inpatient Hem/Onc & Infusion

Laurel Johnson, CCLS

Child Life Specialist

Nicole Kirby, MT-BC, NICU-MT

Board Certified Music Therapist

Jessica Acevedo-Ortiz, MT-BC

Part-Time Music Therapist

Jenna Read, MS CCLS

Supervisor of Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy

Jamie Ruggiero, CCLS


Ellen Smith, CCLS

Child Life Specialist
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU)

Kathryn Sparger, CCLS

Child Life Specialist
Hem/Onc, Infusion

Marlena Tolland, CCLS

Child Life Specialist

Lauren Foster, MS, CCLS

Acute Care, Inpatient Rehab

Carlos Aleman

Gaming Technology Specialist


Internship Program

Nemours Children's Hospital, Florida offers a comprehensive Child Life internship program open to college-affiliated students during the fall and spring semesters. We follow the deadline schedule recommended by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP) and only accept the ACLP Internship Readiness Common Application. Please review the attachments below for application requirements and frequently asked questions. If you have additional questions please contact Jenna Read.

Internship Readiness Common Application Guide

Internship Application Packet

Practicum Program

Nemours Children's Hospital, Florida also offers opportunities for child life practicums to college-affiliated students during the summer semester. The practicum program follows the same internship deadline schedule recommended by the Association of Child Life Professionals (ACLP).

Practicum Application Packet

Internship and Practicum Frequently Asked Questions

Contact Us

For general inquiries and questions regarding student education, please contact:
Jenna Read, MS, CCLS
Supervisor of Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy
(407) 567-4248

For questions regarding donations and special events, please email:

Please allow 48-72 hours for all inquiries due to the volume we receive.


Monday–Friday: 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.