Developmental Pediatrics

If you are concerned about developmental, learning, or behavioral problems, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician may be helpful in evaluating and coordinating care for your child.

What is a developmental behavioral pediatrician?

Developmental behavioral pediatricians, also known as developmental pediatricians, receive sub-specialty training and certification within the field of developmental behavioral pediatrics after finishing a general pediatric residency.  Board certification requires completion of a developmental behavioral fellowship and passing a national examination, followed by continuing medical education.

Developmental pediatricians focus on developmental, behavioral and learning issues from infancy through young adulthood.  Developmental pediatric training allows a broad approach towards children’s health and development that encompasses knowledge from general pediatrics and child development along with child psychology, pediatric neurology and child psychiatry.

Why would a family see a developmental pediatrician?

General pediatricians typically have limited training in developmental disorders such as learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism spectrum disorders.  They do not always have the time or the qualifications to treat these conditions, or to evaluate for common ‘comorbid’ issues (problems that often occur along with these diagnoses).

Developmental pediatricians are highly trained and experienced in identifying a range of developmental and behavioral differences. They can evaluate your child’s overall development, provide a diagnosis, and recommend specific treatment plans.  They often act as an advocate during school planning, providing documentation and support to make sure your child receives needed services.  Developmental pediatricians can also initiate medical evaluations or prescribe medications when appropriate. They also provide long term monitoring as a child moves through different educational settings, assisting with educational programming, behavioral and medical management, and often acting as a care coordinator.

Developmental pediatricians also help families sort through the array of services and testing available to them.  Many children with developmental concerns have had evaluations completed through Early Intervention or a school district.  Neuropsychological testing sometimes has a role, but is not always required and can be confusing to understand once completed.  A developmental pediatrician can act as a long-term resource pulling all this information together into a comprehensive plan.

In addition, Early Intervention and school-based evaluations typically do not make medical diagnoses such as autism, Asperger’s Disorder or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).   These diagnoses usually require evaluation by an independent evaluator, such as a developmental pediatrician.

What does a developmental pediatrician do when evaluating a child?

A developmental pediatrician will typically spend at least an hour or two with a child to conduct an initial evaluation.  He or she will interview parents about a child’s developmental history, habits, abilities and challenges.  Outside information from teachers, therapists and other providers is typically reviewed.   Once the evaluation is completed a developmental pediatrician will provide a report with a specific diagnosis when appropriate. Families may receive recommendations for treatment or referrals to agencies that fund and provide such treatments, help finding therapists, and guidance in educational planning.

What conditions may a developmental pediatrician evaluate and treat?

Developmental pediatricians are experts in the management of autistic spectrum disorders, developmental delays, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other developmental disorders, and help manage many other developmental and behavioral issues.