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
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
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
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,
http://www.abpp.org/). Limited licensed psychologists have a
master¹s degree (MA) in psychology and operate under
supervision. Most school psychologists have a master’s degree
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
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
http://www.socialworkers.org), 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, http://www.asha.org) 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, http://www.nbcot.org) 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
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
... 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
© First Signs, Inc., May 2001
Mitzi Waltz € http://www.mitziwaltz.com/
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