Developmental paediatricians

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Developmental paediatricians are doctors who specialize in child development. Learn what they do and how they can help your child.

Key points

  • Developmental paediatricians are doctors who have completed extra training in the field of child development.
  • Developmental paediatricians assess all aspects of development, including language, social communication and interaction skills, play behavior, motor skills and some cognition.
  • Developmental paediatricians work together with other care providers to help ensure their patients are getting the extra support they need in a variety of different settings.
  • If you are concerned that your child is having delays in their development, speak with your doctor.

What is a developmental paediatrician?

Developmental paediatricians are doctors who specialize in child development. They see children with a wide variety of developmental, learning and behavioural issues from infancy to young adulthood.

What types of patients are seen by developmental paediatricians?

Developmental paediatricians assess, diagnose and support children who have problems with any aspect of their development. This may include:

  • Gross motor skills (e.g. sitting, walking, climbing)
  • Fine motor skills (e.g. feeding, printing)
  • Speech and language (e.g. articulation, pronunciation, receptive and expressive language delays)
  • Social communication and interaction skills, play and behaviour (e.g. developmental delay, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity (e.g. ADHD)
  • Cognitive (e.g. Global Developmental Delay (GDD), Intellectual Disabilities (ID), Learning Disabilities (LD)

Many children will have problems in more than one aspect of their development. Some children may have problems with their development as a result of a medical condition or a brain injury. Other children are healthy, but develop differently than other children their age. Common conditions that developmental paediatricians treat are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Cerebral Palsy (CP) and Learning Disabilities (LDs).

What does a developmental paediatrician do?

On your child’s visit to a developmental paediatrician, the doctor will talk to you about your concerns and then ask a lot of questions about your child and their development. This will include questions about the pregnancy and birth, early development such as babbling, first words, gestures, social skills (joint attention, smiling), play skills and interests, behaviours, motor skills and overall medical health. They may ask you to fill out a questionnaire regarding your child’s development. If your child is daycare- or school-aged, then information will also be collected from caregivers and teachers. Additional reports from other therapists your child may be seeing (resource educator, early childhood consultant, speech and language pathologist, psychologist, occupational therapist) will also be collected and interpreted.

Depending on your child’s challenges, the developmental paediatrician will interact with and observe your child playing and/or ask them to participate in some play-based evaluations. The developmental paediatrician will use these evaluations in combination with the history to assess your child and determine their developmental needs. Often these evaluations take place over two or even three assessment times. This allows for a more balanced view of your child’s skills (instead of doing it all at one setting especially if your child is having a difficult day) and is also done so your child does not become too tired. Some of these evaluations may involve a team of other health professionals including a psychologist, speech language pathologist, occupational therapist.

At the end of your visits, the developmental paediatrician will summarize what they have learned. They will help you identify some of the developmental problems that your child is having. Sometimes a diagnosis is made. If required, they will then make referrals for different therapies your child might benefit from (e.g. speech or language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy) although many children may have already had these in advance or as part of the assessment. In some cases, blood work and other tests (hearing, vision, psychological testing) may be warranted.

Developmental paediatricians work closely with these other health professionals, as well as teachers, parents, day care workers and other care providers to help them develop strategies to deal with the different concerns a child might be having. In certain cases, a diagnosis is needed to access additional services like behavioural therapy, funding support etc.

How do I find a developmental paediatrician?

If you are concerned about your child’s development, you should speak with your primary care doctor. They may refer you to a general paediatrician first for further assessment or directly to a developmental paediatrician if your doctor feels that your child’s challenges require further help and expertise.

Last updated: August 17th 2015