Our Faculty

Deborah B. Vilas

Program Director, Child Life

Deborah B. Vilas, MS, CCLS, LMSW is an educator, child life specialist, social worker, writer, public speaker, and consultant whose passion is anything that supports children’s development and healing in the face of everyday life or trauma. She specializes in helping children and parents through hospitalization, loss and developmental challenges. Deb sees play as a child’s primary language and modality for self expression and healing. She teaches and coaches adults how to provide meaningful and therapeutic play experiences for children. She promotes open ended, child centered play and connecting with nature, discovery and co-creating meaning.

“Birds fly, fish swim, and children play.” -Garry Landreth

Educational Background

MSW, New York University, M.S.Ed., Bank Street College of Education


Vilas, D. (2018). Loose Parts: Creating and Constructing. ACLP Bulletin. Winter 2018. 36 (1).

Luongo, J. & Vilas, D. (2017). Medical Makers: Therapeutic Play Using “Loose Parts” In Handbook of Medical Play Therapy and Child Life: Clinical Interventions for Children and Adolescents. KY: Routledge.

Vilas, D. (2017). Ascending. In Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Visible ink: A one-to-one writing program for MSK patients anthology 2017. NY: MSKCC.

Vilas, D. (2017). How play can help a child cope with stress at the hospital. The Mighty Blog. Retrieved February 24, 2017. https://themighty.com/2017/02/helping-child-cope-stress-hospital/.

Vilas, D. (2017). RX for Play. Standish Foundation for Child & Family Centered Healthcare Blog. Retrieved January 17, 2017. http://sf4c.org/prescription-for-play.

Vilas, D. (2017). Where the spirit meets the bone: The role of child life specialists in troubling times. ACLP Bulletin. Winter 2017. 35 (1).

Vilas, D. (2016). Powerful Medicine. In Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (2016). Visible ink: A one-to-one writing program for MSK patients anthology 2016. NY: MSKCC.

Vilas, D. Pediaplay.com: Connecting, Coping & Healing Through Play. A Blog about play in hospitals around the world. www.pediaplay.com

That’s Child Life! video. Subject expert for development and production of video by the Child Life Council and 522 productions. March 2015. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=daysNlDgSAw

Vilas, D. (2015). My Story in Faces of Breast Cancer. New York Times Well Blog. February 2015. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/projects/breast-cancer-stories/stories/869

Vilas, D. (2014). Playing for the child who cannot play. Child Life Council Bulletin. Summer 2014, 32 (3).

Vilas, D. (2014). The Element of Surprise. In Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (2014). Visible ink: A one-to-one writing program for MSK patients anthology 2014. NY: MSKCC.

Vilas, D. (2014). Report on Findings of Play Practices and Innovations Survey: The State of Play in North American Hospitals (link). Child Life Council.

Vilas, D. (2014). Brief highlights from report on findings of play practices and innovations survey:
 The state of play in North American hospitals. Child Life Council Bulletin, Winter 2014, 32 (1).

Koch, C., Passmore, L. & Vilas, D. (2014). Co-creating meaning: Loose parts in the 7th dimension. Child Life Council Bulletin, Winter 2014, 32 (1).

Vilas, D. (2014). Play maps and life lines: New and borrowed techniques for crossing cultural and generational divides. Child Life Council Bulletin, Winter 2014, 32 (1).

Vilas, D. (2009). Child Life Practice in Hospitals. In N. Boyd Webb. (2009). Helping children and adolescents with chronic and serious medical conditions: A strengths-based approach. NY; John Wiley & Sons.


Child Life of Greater New York: 11/17, NY, NY.
Co-Presenter: Child Life Specialists as Advocates for Social Justice, Equality and Equity in Healthcare: An Introduction

Early Childhood Center at Park Avenue Synagogue: 10/27/17
Parent Group: Discussing sensitive topics with your children

Child Life United: 9/17 & 10/17, 1/18, Sydney Australia, The Philippines, online distance teaching
Guest lecturer: Prescription for Play
Guest lecturer: Child Centered Play

Klicek Foundation: 5/17, 11/17, Prague, Plzen, & Nový Jičin, Czech Republic
Plzen School of Nursing; Nursing College of Nový Jičin; & Klicek Foundation
Facilitator: Where Humanity Intersects: Child Life, Play and Nursing
Co-Facilitator: Pediatric Psychosocial Needs in Palliative Care.

Hospital Español de México Pediatric Psychology and Child Life Department: 11/16, Mexico City, Mexico.
Guest lecturer: Adolescent Development and Play Interventions for Teens

Child Life Council Annual Conference: 5/16, Orlando, Florida
Panel Moderator: Global Collaboration: Teaching & Learning Around the World
Co-Facilitator of Half-Day Intensive: The Power of Child-Centered Play: Letting Kids Lead the Way

Prevent Child Abuse: 4/16, Grace Church High School: NY, NY.
Paper Tigers: Film Presentation and Panel Discussion
Panelist: Child Development Expert

United Nations Headquarters: 2/16, NY, NY.
The 54th Session of the Commission for Social Development: “Rethinking and strengthening social development in the contemporary world”.
Panelist: The Integration of Mobile Technology Solutions at the Direction of Professionals in the Field.

New York University: 10/15, NY, NY.
Guest Speaker: Child-Centered Play Techniques.

University of Shizuoka & Japanese Society of Hospital Play: 8/15, Tokyo, Shizuoka & Osaka, Japan
Co-Facilitator: Five day course on Play Techniques

Klicek Foundation: 6/15, 11/15, Prague, & Nový Jičin, Czech Republic
Charles University, Plzen School of Nursing, and Caritas School of Social Services
Facilitator: Workshops on Play Techniques for Angry Children
and Play: The Continuum of Need

Young Child Expo & Conference: 4/15, NY, NY .
Co-Facilitator: Play in Early Childhood Settings: An Antidote to Technology Overload

Phoenix Regional Child Life Conference: 3/15, Phoenix, AZ.
Keynote Speaker: Tweaking Maslow: Play’s Continuum of Needs.

Child Life Council International Summit on Pediatric Psychosocial Care: 5/14, New Orleans, LA.
Keynote Speaker: The State of Play in North American Hospitals.

Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation: 5/14, Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories. Co-Presenter: Pediatric Child Life Services – an inservice for psychosocial and nursing staff.

Hospital Play Specialists Association of Aotearoa/New Zealand 7th Biennial International Conference: 3/14, Auckland, NZ. Plenary Speaker: Cool! Gross! Wow! Techniques for helping angry children; Going High Tech Responsibly: A conversation about balance; Loose Parts in the 7th Dimension: Co-Creating Meaning with Children.

Child Life Council International Summit on Pediatric Psychosocial Care: 5/14, New Orleans, LA.
Keynote Speaker: The State of Play in North American Hospitals.