Developmental pediatricians are doctors who specialize in children with developmental or behavioral concerns, or specific developmental disabilities. Developmental pediatricians may provide a “developmental assessment” to help parents understand their child’s challenges, and to provide guidance for a treatment plan. In addition, a developmental pediatrician may help you understand the unique individual differences of your child.
When a child has a developmental delay or disability, there are usually several different therapists, teachers, and doctors involved. Often the parent must be the person to coordinate and integrate all of the intervention ideas. Developmental pediatricians may help parents balance priorities for treatment and serve as a team leader among various therapists, or as a consultant to the team.
Parents often seek out information and may find multiple opinions about what is best for their child. Developmental pediatricians are often involved in research or training, so they may be valuable resources for information and guidance. Developmental pediatricians are able to take the perspective of the whole child: seeing how health, sleep, diet, motor, cognitive, language, and social-emotional development interact.
A developmental perspective means appreciating how all aspects of a child contribute to a child’s ability to function in his or her daily life at home and school. The critical elements of a developmental perspective are the child’s gradually increasing ability to share attention, be curious, engage in warm relationships, initiate and respond in purposeful interactions, problem solve with others, be creative, spontaneous, flexible, and reflective thinkers—not only when feeling happy and cooperative, but also when feeling anxious, sad, excited, surprised, frustrated, nervous, angry, disappointed, jealous, proud, brave, etc., throughout the day, with parents, siblings, friends, and strangers.
Explicitly developmental approaches, such as Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan’s DIR/Floortime approach, provide a roadmap for comprehensive developmental intervention programs. A developmental pediatrician can assist you to make the best decisions for your child and your family.