Shani Thornton is a practicing Certified Child Life Specialist in the Placer County and Sacramento community. She supports children and families coping with life’s challenges, such as a child’s medical diagnosis, treatment and loss. She also supports children who have a loved one that may be ill or on palliative/hospice care.

With her educational background and training expertise, she uses therapeutic play, creative arts, social stories and developmentally appropriate language to help children understand and process these challenges. She prepares children for new experiences, provides opportunities for self-expression and teaches coping and advocacy skills. She works closely with parents and caregivers to continue these healthy relationships and support their child’s needs.

For Children

Teddy Bear Clinic 

Having a child life specialist speak with children about routine wellness visits and the fears associated to painful medical procedures, such as a vaccination and blood test, helps kids process their past experiences and find healthy coping strategies for the future. Children are given an opportunity to play with real and pretend medical materials, that help them become familiarized with the tools and find a sense of control within the play. The child life specialist is also there to validate emotions, clear up misconceptions and teach coping strategies to help kids feel confident and well prepared for their next doctor visit. This interactive workshop can be tailored for all ages and group settings (schools, children’s community programs, daycare, scouts and playgroups). 

Grief and Loss

When children experience loss of a community member it can be devastating. Having a child life specialist provide support to families, caregivers and children during this time can be extremely beneficial. The child life specialist establishes a safe environment for children to process the loss, express their feelings, clear up misconceptions, and learn therapeutic coping tools for grief. The specialist will also work with the caring adults to provide education on a child’s developmental understanding of loss and supportive tools to help them cope.

For Adults

Be the Best Healthcare Advocate for your Child

The medical environment can be extremely overwhelming and frightening for children and their caregivers. This workshop is designed to educate and support parents on useful tools that ease fears and trauma, strengthen advocacy skills and provide children with a positive healthcare experience. The child life specialist will cover topics on how to prepare a child for a medical visit (routine, emergency or scheduled procedure), incorporate distraction techniques, and continue supportive measures at home. This workshop can be lead as a child/parent group or adults only with an opportunity for hands on activities. It can also be tailored to a specific age group and/or medical diagnosis.

Connecting Through Play

Children learn about their world through play. It’s the foundation in their development. Through play they process their experiences, develop language, strengthen social skills, build self-confidence and problem solve. When caring adults have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a child’s open-ended play, a deepening bond takes shape. A child life specialist can teach parents and caregivers how to connect at this level through a child-centered play technique. Caring adults will learn how to create a warm and inviting play environment, how to hold back and allow the child to lead, provide empathic language and encourage children to problem solve. This workshop can be tailored for all age groups and settings (parent/playgroups, schools, daycares, community children’s programs). This can be in a single presentation or over a series, giving parents and caregivers the opportunity to try it out and strengthen their skills.

Contact Shani at for further information.