Why See a Developmental Pediatrician?
Developmental pediatricians are highly trained and experienced in identifying a range of developmental and behavioral differences in children. They can evaluate your child’s overall development, provide a diagnosis, and recommend specific treatment plans. Such pediatricians have had additional training in developmental disorders such as learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders. Additionally, they have the ability to evaluate a child for ‘comorbid’ issues (problems that often occur along with these diagnoses), such as Anxiety, Sensory Integration Disorders, Developmental Coordination Disorder and Language and Social Communication Disorders. They can perform diagnostic testing and more complex evaluations for a host of diagnoses.
Developmental pediatricians also help families sort through the array of services and testing available to them. Many children with developmental concerns have had evaluations completed through Early Intervention or a school district. Neuropsychological testing often has a role, but is not always required and can be confusing to understand once it completed. A trained clinician in this field can help parents sort through and understand this myriad paperwork, including Psycho-Educational Assessments, Functional Behavioral Assessments, Individualized Education Plans and other complex documents. Moreover, a developmental pediatrician not only understands this testing, but they can also perform and complete most of this testing, hence they can fill in the gaps or explain differences if necessary. They can act as a long-term resource pulling all this information together into a comprehensive plan.
In addition, Early Intervention and school-based evaluations typically do not make medical diagnoses such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism, Asperger’s Disorder or Social Communication Disorder. These diagnoses usually require evaluation by an independent evaluator, such as a developmental pediatrician.
Developmental pediatricians often assist during school planning, providing documentation and support to make sure your child receives appropriate services in the school setting. They can prescribe ancillary services such as Speech Therapy or Occupational Therapy. They can also initiate medical evaluations and prescribe medications when appropriate. Multifaceted treatment plans have been shown to be the most effective for many developmental disorders, including ADHD and Autism. Therapeutic services in the school and home setting, appropriate behavior management, Psycho-therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, as well as medication may all have a role. Select complementary and alternative therapies may be helpful for some patients, and the ‘common sense’ triad of a good night’s sleep, a healthy diet and regular exercise are also essential to maximize functioning. Developmental pediatricians often act as a care coordinator, providing long term monitoring as a child moves through different educational settings, behavioral and therapeutic services and medical management.