Skip to main content
Faculty of Community Services

Donna Koller




416-979-5000, ext. 2513

Email Address:


  • Social and emotional well-being of children
  • Social inclusion for children with chronic illness and disability
  • Psychosocial care in pediatrics and the role of the child life specialist
  • Research methods with young children


Donna Koller is a professor within the School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University and an adjunct scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). She has a doctorate degree in child development and applied psychology from the University of Toronto and has worked in several pediatric settings in the US and Canada, both in clinical and research capacities. Adopting a children’s rights perspective, her program of research consistently examines how children experience the world around them, particularly when they are faced with challenges. Studies include an assessment of sensory environments in pediatric rehabilitation, children’s perspectives on health care decision making, the design of hospital spaces and medical errors. Currently, she is engaged in a program of research with several community partners to address the social inclusion of children with chronic medical conditions and disability. Her work is guided by ethical considerations aligned with children’s participation rights and contemporary views of childhood. Internationally, she has consulted on pediatric psychosocial care and research methodologies across North America and in the Middle East.

Research Interests:

Research interests:

  • Best practices in psychosocial care of children with chronic medical conditions
  • Social inclusion for children with disabilities and chronic medical conditions
  • Children's perspectives on health care experiences
  • Research methods with young children

Current research projects:

Project: Reconciling the social model of childhood disability with pedagogy: The effects of teacher training to facilitate friendship-building.

  • Funded by: SSHRC, Insight grant.

Project: Mobilizing knowledge: Partners for social inclusion for children with disabilities.

  • Funded by: SSHRC, Partnership Development grant.

Project: Child perspectives on disclosure of adverse events in paediatrics.

  • Funded by: Ryerson Health Fund.

Project: Building Friendships: A pilot study of a social inclusion teacher-training program.

  • Funded by: Faculty of Community Services, SEED.

Current Courses:

  • CLD 205: Social and Emotional Well-being
  • CLD 446: Children and Chronic Illness
  • CS 8942: Children’s Health

Selected Publications:

Papers in refereed journals: 

  • Cagulada, E. & Koller, D. (2019, in press) “It’s A Hearing World”: Parents’ perspectives of the well-being of children who are deaf and hard of hearing. Deafness & Education International.
  • Koller, D., & Farley, M. (2019). Examining elements of children's place attachment. Children's Geographies, 1-10. doi:10.1080/14733285.2019.1574336 
  • Koller, D., & Espin, S., (2018). Comparing views of children, parents and health care providers on pediatric disclosure of medical errors. Journal of Child Health Care. 
  • Koller, D, McPherson, A., Lockwood, I., Blain-Moraes, S., & Nolan, J. (2018). The Impact of Snoezelen in Pediatric Complex Continuing Care: A Pilot Study. Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine.
  • Koller, D. (2017). ‘Kids need to talk too’: inclusive practices for children's healthcare education and participation. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 26, 2657–2668.
  • Koller, D., Rummens, J. A., & Le Pouésard, M. (2016). Defining Social Inclusion for Children with Disabilities: A Critical Literature Review. Children and Society 2(1), 1-13. doi:10.1111/chso.12223
  • Koller, D., Rummens, A., Le Pouesard, M., Espin, S., Friedman, J., Coffey, M., & Kenneally, N. (2016). Patient disclosure of medical errors in paediatrics: A systematic literature review. Paediatrics & Child Health, 21(4), e32–e38.
  • Koller, D., & San Juan, V. (2015). Play-based interview methods for exploring young children’s perspectives on inclusion. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 28(5), 610- 631. doi:10.1080/09518398.2014.916434
  • Underwood, K., Chan, C., Koller, D., & Valeo, A. (2015). Understanding young Children’s capabilities: Approaches to interviews with young children experiencing disability. Child Care in Practice, 21(3), 220-237. doi:10.1080/13575279.2015.103724
  • Koller, D., Khan, N., & Barrett, S. (2014). Pediatric Perspectives on Diabetes Self-Care: The process of achieving acceptance. Qualitative Health Research, 25(2): 264–275.
  • Koller, D., & McLaren, C. (2012). Children’s emotional responses to a paediatric hospital atrium. Children and Society, (28), 451–464. doi: 10.1111/chso.12002.
  • Koller, D., & Goldman, R. (2012). Distraction techniques for children undergoing procedures: A critical review of pediatric research. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 27(6), 652-681. **High Impact Journal: Awarded most cited and downloaded paper in 2014 and 2016.
  • Nicholas, D., Fellner, K., Koller, D., Fontana Chow, K., & Brister, L. (2011). Evaluation of videophone communication for families of hospitalized children. Social Work in Health Care, 50(3), 215-229.
  • Koller, D. & Schugurensky, D. (2010). Examining the developmental impact of youth participation in education governance: The case of student trustees. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21 (2), 350-360.
  • Koller, D., Nicholas, D., & Gearing, R., Kalfa, O. (2010). Paediatric pandemic planning: Children’s perspectives and recommendations. Health and Social Care in the Community, 18(4) 369-377.
  • Nicholas, D., Pastershuk, C., Koller, D, Matlow, A., Bruce-Barrett, C., Lack L., Shaul, R (2010). Pandemic planning in pediatric care: A website policy review and National Survey Data, Health Policy, 96, 134-142.
  • Hanna, D., Glendon, G., Maloney, E., Knight, J., Lilge, L., & Koller, D. (2009). The establishment of a cohort of girls in Ontario breast cancer families. Current Oncology, Volume 15(5), p 356.
  • Nicholas, D., Gearing, R., Koller, D., Salter, R., & Selkirk, E. (2008). Pediatric epidemic crisis: Lessons for policy and practice development, Health Policy, 88 (2-3), 200-208.
  • Koller, D., & Gryski, C. (2008). The life threatened child and the life enhancing clown: Towards a model of therapeutic clowning. Journal of Evidence Based Practice in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 5(1),17-25.
  • Nicholas, D. B., Darch, J., McNeill, T., O'Leary, K., Berlin, D., & Koller, D. (2007). Perceptions of online support for hospitalized children and adolescents. Social Work in Health Care, 44(3), 205- 223.
  • Koller, D., Nicholas, D., Salter-Goldie, R., Gearing, R., & Selkirk, E. (2006). Bowlby and Robertson revisited: The impact of isolation on hospitalized children. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 27(2), 1-7.
  • Koller, D., Nicholas, D., Salter-Goldie, R., Gearing, R., & Selkirk, E. (2006). When family centered care is challenged by infectious disease: Paediatric health care delivery during the SARS outbreaks. Qualitative Health Research, 16, 47-60.
  • Nicholas, D. B., Koller, D., & Picone, G. (2004). Fostering childhood participation in health care: Grandparents’ perspectives on children’s involvement in the treatment of paediatric end stage renal disease, Journal of Nephrology Social Work, 23, 11-12.

Chapters in books:

  • Koller, D. (2018). Anxiety and the Hospitalized Child: Best Practices for Guiding Therapeutic Play. Charles Schaefer, (Ed). Play-Based Interventions for Childhood Anxieties, Fears, and Phobias. Guilford Press, New York.
  • Underwood, K.; Chan, C.; Koller, D., & Valeo, A. (2017). Understanding Young Children’s Capabilities: Approaches to Interviews with Young Children Experiencing Disability. In B. Kelly & B. Byrne (Eds.), Valuing Disabled Children and Young People: Research, policy, and practice. Routledge, New York.
  • Koller, D. (2014). Hospital Play Dolls. In V. Johnson, J. Colwell, & R. Hart (Eds.), Steps to engaging young children in research: The researcher toolkit (pp. 138-140). Education Research Centre, University of Brighton, UK.

Major invited contributions or reports:

  • Koller, D. (2008). Child life assessment: Variables associated with a child’s ability to cope with hospitalization. Child Life Council Evidence-Based Practice Statement. Peer reviewed and approved by Child Life Council Board Members. Available online at
  • Koller, D. (2008). Therapeutic play in pediatric health care: The essence of child life practice. Child Life Council Evidence-Based Practice Statement. Peer reviewed and approved by the Child Life Council, Maryland, USA. Available online at
  • Koller, D. (2007). Preparing children and adolescents for medical procedures. Child Life Council Evidence-Based Practice Statement. Peer reviewed across North America and approved by Child Life Council, Maryland, USA. Available online at

Papers under review in refereed journals:

  • Koller, D., & Stoddart, K. (2018, in review). Social inclusion best practices for children with disabilities: A critical review of the literature.

Book reviews and field publications:

  • Koller, D., & Schugurensky, D. (2007). Empowering children: Children’s rights education as a pathway to citizenship. Children & Society, 21(3), 232-233.
  • Koller, D., & Minden, D. (Spring 2005). Preparing your child for bloodwork. Kid’s Health 6(1). A publication by The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.
  • Koller, D., Darch, J., & Patterson, S. (2004, October). When the going gets tough, the tough get playing: A child life response to the SARS crisis, Child Life Council Bulletin 21 (3), 10-14.
  • Koller, D. (2004). Children’s involvement in decision-making. Child Life Council Bulletin, 22(1),1-2.
  • Nicholas, D. B., & Koller, D. (2003). The Experience of SARS from a Paediatric Perspective. Update, A publication by The Ontario Respiratory Care Society.
  • Koller, D. (2003). The Child Life Specialist’s Role in Fostering Child Participation. Child Life Council Bulletin, 21 (1), 3 - 7.

Professional Affiliations:

  • Blumenthal Fellowship, University of Missouri
  • Superior Graduate Student Award, University of Missouri

Position Currently Held:


Creative activities
Awards and honours

Contact details

Office details

  • Office location: KHS 363-K, Kerr Hall South
  • Hours available: By appointment.