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Who We Are | Concerns About a Child | Screening | Diagnosis & Treatment
The first three years are critical to a child's development.
Guest Column                         
Putting Together                          
Your Child’s Treatment Team               

The following guest column was written for First Signs by Mitzi Waltz, ©2001. Mitzi is the author of several Patient Centered Guides that provide comprehensive coverage on a variety of developmental and behavioral disorders, including Autism Spectrum Disorders: Understanding the Diagnosis and Getting Help.

Your child’s pediatrician will provide most routine and disability-specific health care for your child. He or she may also act as the gatekeeper for other services your child needs, such as speech therapy or psychiatric care. If your current pediatrician isn’t up to the job, you might consider a developmental pediatrician, who has extra training in this area. The other members of your child’s treatment team will depend on what’s needed.

Here’s a short list of professionals who may be helpful.

Developmental pediatrician. Developmental pediatricians are medical doctors (MDs) who specialize in treating the health problems of children with developmental delays or handicaps. Developmental pediatricians are familiar with neurological problems, medications, and current research on disabilities. They work closely with other specialists, including most of those listed below. (For more information, visit

Neurologist. Neurologists are MDs with special expertise in brain disorders, such as epilepsy and cerebral palsy. You can check credentials with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (847-945-7900,

Psychiatrist. Psychiatrists are MDs with special expertise in brain disorders that change how a person thinks or behaves, such as ADHD or clinical depression. They are also credentialed by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Psychologist. Psychologists can diagnose disorders, provide talk-based therapy, and offer advice on coping skills, education strategies, and behavior management. Licensed psychologists have passed a national examination to receive credentials from the states where they work. They can be certified in a specialty by the American Board of Professional Psychology (573-875-1267, Limited licensed psychologists have a master¹s degree (MA) in psychology and operate under supervision. Most school psychologists have a master’s degree (MA) only

Neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who has completed extra training in the behavioral effects of biologically based mental illnesses, such as autism and epilepsy. They can diagnose disorders, provide talk-based therapy, and offer advice on coping skills, education strategies, and behavior management. Neuropsychologists are credentialed by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (734-936-8269,

Social worker. Social workers help people access community resources, provide direct therapy services, or act in other roles. They may have a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in social work, or a Masters in Social Work (MSW). Licensed clinical social workers (LCSW) have received a license from their state board (see the Association of Social Work Boards, (800) 225-6880, Certified social workers (CSW or ASCW) have a master’s degree, have passed an examination by the National Association of Social Workers (202-408-8600,, and have practiced under supervision for two years.

Therapist/counselor. In some places, anyone can call themselves a therapist or counselor. Ask the person you’re considering about his or her training and experience. Most states offer a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) or Certified Professional Counselor (CPC) credential. Each state’s requirements are different, but most include an MA or Master¹s of Education (MEd) degree with a major in counseling, a period of supervised practice, and passing a state exam (see the American Association of State Counseling Boards, 336-547-0914, Counselors may become nationally board-certified through the National Board for Certified Counselors (336-547-0607,

Speech therapist. Speech therapists help people with communication disorders learn to talk or improve their ability to talk. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (800-638-8255, credentials speech therapists, language therapists, and audiologists.

Occupational therapist. OTs help people improve their fine-motor skills, and may teach them how to perform specific tasks (such as holding a pencil for writing). Some are trained to provide sensory integration therapy, a specialty that helps people with over- or undersensitivity to touch, sound, smell, or taste. The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (301-990-7979, credentials OTs.

Physical therapist. PTs help people develop or improve gross-motor skills, such as walking, running, and climbing. They have a BA or higher degree in physical therapy, and have passed a state licensing exam (see for more info.)

Behavior therapist. A behavior therapist is a specialist in behavior modification techniques. They can come from a number of different educational backgrounds. Some design or oversee behavior modification programs to be carried out by others. Others provide direct services to people at home, particularly those who offer Applied Behavior Analysis programs for children with autism. Most behavior therapists have at least a BA in an appropriate specialty. Some states require a special credential for ABA practitioners.

Assistive technology specialist. AT specialists help find devices and technologies that can extend a person’s physical abilities, such as talking computers. They can come from a variety of different educational backgrounds, so ask about training and expertise. Many are also occupational or speech therapists.

Your pediatrician may be able to recommend good people. Other parents can offer ideas. You can also get information through a county health or mental health department, a crisis line, or a local support and advocacy group. Once you have some names to choose from and have checked their credentials, here are some questions you may want to ask:

... Are you accepting new clients?

... Do you charge for an initial consultation?

... What is your approach to working with people who have my child's diagnosis?

... How and when will treatment goals be set?

... How will family members be involved in my child¹s treatment?

... Do you accept my insurance plan, or charge an affordable rate for out-of- pocket payment?

…Do you have sliding-scale rates?

Once you have found your team members, help them work well together. Make sure everyone who helps your child knows who the other members of the treatment team are, and how to reach them. Ensure that important information, test results, and reports are shared.

© First Signs, Inc., May 2001


Mitzi Waltz €

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