They diagnose and treat a wide range of developmental, behavioral, and learning issues in children from infancy through young adulthood.
Also sometimes called developmental pediatricians, they typically do some or all of the following:
- Evaluate children at risk for developmental and behavioral disorders, which can include spending one to two hours with the child
- Interview the parents (often in addition to asking the parents to fill out a lengthy, detailed history) about the child’s development, behaviors, abilities, challenges, social interactions, and more
- Deliver a full report that includes a specific diagnosis, when appropriate and possible
- Provide recommendations for treatment
- Provide referrals to therapists and other specialists, agencies, and organizations that can help (as well as direct parents to potential funding sources)
- Provide guidance in choosing schools
- Provide long-term monitoring throughout the school years and assist with key decisions
- Manage any medications needed
- Monitor and help manage behavior
- Advocate during school planning, providing documentation and support to make sure the child receives needed services
- Act as an overall care coordinator
Developmental-behavioral pediatricians can be especially helpful when you’re dealing with any of the following:
- Attention and behavior issues, including ADD and ADHD, oppositional-defiant disorder, and anxiety disorders
- Developmental delays in speech, language, motor skills, and more
- Developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, vision and hearing impairments, and cognitive impairments
- Habit disorders, such as Tourette syndrome
- Learning disorders, including dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia
- Just about any other developmental or behavioral issue
What to look for:
Finding someone with the right credentials is seldom a problem, since all developmental-behavioral pediatricians—in addition to graduating from medical school and having residency training in pediatrics—are board certified in pediatrics and have additional training in developmental-behavioral pediatrics.
With that in mind, you’ll likely have two main considerations in addition to finding someone who seems like a good fit for your child:
1) Availability: Because developmental-behavioral pediatrics is a relatively new specialty within pediatrics, finding a developmental pediatrician can be difficult, especially outside major metro areas.
2) Cost: Many insurance companies cover some or most of the cost of these services. But you may have to provide full payment up front, since many developmental pediatricians don’t handle medical billing (to save time and expense). In those cases, they’ll likely provide you with a billing statement, which you’ll need to file for reimbursement.
More helpful things to know or do:
- If you have to wait months for a first appointment (it’s not uncommon to wait 3 to 6 months), ask the doctor’s office for its child history form and begin filling it out, keeping detailed notes about your child’s behaviors, habits, and challenges. The information you gather can save time later—and give all the providers you’re seeing important clues to work with.