Deborah Vilas


“I survived a dire prognosis when born with a rare congenital skin disorder. I spent much time in hospital as a child and did not receive any child life services. I know the importance of pain and trauma prevention first hand. I felt a calling to this work and I experience much joy in it, so I know I took the best path for me.

I was certified as a child life specialist in 1993.

Some of my happiest career moments were keynoting at the Child Life Council International Summit on Pediatric Psychosocial Care, presenting at the United Nations, and teaching abroad in Japan and the Czech Republic.

I am very invested in play as a medium for intervention and as an integral part of the healing process. I teach others how to connect in a child-centered manner in play with children, honoring the fact that it is a child’s first language, the way they express themselves and make meaning out of their experiences.

Much of the trauma children experience in hospitals is preventable with some of the simplest interventions. Any medical professional can be playful, empower children by preparing them, giving them choices, being diligent about pain prevention for even small procedures, and providing positioning for comfort and parental presence. Play and preparation can innoculate children against trauma and give them great coping skills for a lifetime.”