In today’s world of medicine, a developmental pediatrician plays a crucial role in the treatment of children with developmental and behavioral conditions. After becoming an MD and completing their residency and certification in pediatric medicine, a developmental pediatrician goes on to complete further study in the field of development and behavioral issues.
A high degree of specialization is great news for children with developmental conditions and for their parents as well. In the past, these children were often treated by general pediatricians, who often referred them to child psychologists. While this sequence often worked, it’s wonderful to now have a specialized certification which focuses primarily on the needs of children who would otherwise be shuffled from doctor to doctor in search of answers.
What Does a Developmental Pediatrician Do?
A developmental pediatrician does many of the same things a regular pediatrician does. However, their special certification allows them further insight and expertise into certain developmental disorders and conditions. The following is a short list of some common conditions which a developmental pediatrician may diagnose and treat.
- Learning Disorders – A wide range of conditions fall into this section of developmental conditions. Children who find writing, public speaking or math unusually difficult may benefit from a developmental pediatrician, as do children with dyslexia. In these cases, the developmental pediatrician will diagnose the child and then provide further treatment, which often includes a referral to a specialist in a particular condition or an academic center which specializes in learning disorders.
- Developmental Delays – If a child has fallen behind his peers in basis skills, such as mobility, cognition, language or speech, a developmental pediatrician can be extremely helpful. They are trained to recognize these delays earlier than an MD with no specialized training, and therefore help children sooner. The earlier a child receives help with a developmental delay, the better the chances that he will quickly catch up to his peers. As with learning disorders, a developmental pediatrician has the option to treat the condition herself or to refer the child to another doctor or therapist who specializes in one particular delay, such as a speech therapist.
- Habit Disorders – Encompassing Tourette’s Syndrome as well as a variety of tic behaviors, habit disorders can be very disruptive. Not only are they confusing and frustrating for the child, but for the child’s family as well. When treated early in life, tic disorders can often be eliminated or minimized quite well.
- Regulatory Disorders – Feeding issues, disciplinary problems, bed-wetting and sleep disorders fall into this area of research. A developmental pediatrician is trained to spot the signs of these disorders as well as to treat them, although, as with many issues, a referral to a specialist may be the best solution. These issues are often only symptoms of underlying psychological conditions, such as excessive stress, and so a child psychologist may be recommended. In many instances, however, a developmental pediatrician has the skills to deliver effective therapy, especially in mild to moderate cases.
Developmental Pediatrician Specialties
As you can see, the range of conditions which a developmental pediatrician is trained in is very broad. These highly specialized pediatricians can work wonders in saving time and frustration for children and their families, since they eliminate many of the steps a family must go through before finding the right doctor or specialist for a particular condition.
In some cases, a doctor will become certified as a developmental pediatrician and discover that they have a passion for a certain disorder. These doctors often choose to narrow their specialization even further and become experts in that field.
This high level of specialization is wonderful for children and parents alike, since the more time a doctor spends working with and researching a condition, the more up-to-date and knowledgeable they are in that field. All that knowledge and experience translates into more direct and (usually) faster results during treatment.
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