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A developmental therapist can play an important role in helping children to become healthy and functional adults. For this position, it's beneficial to have an analytical mind, an empathetic nature and outstanding communication skills. While it's sometimes possible to get into this field with only a bachelor's degree in psychology, it's preferable to have a master's or doctorate. Some primary job duties of a developmental therapist include evaluating the development of children, communicating with parents, recommending therapeutic techniques and maintaining records.
Perhaps the most fundamental aspect of this job is evaluating the development of children. For example, if parents are concerned that a child is developing more slowly than other children, a developmental therapist would make an assessment. During an evaluation, he might ask the child a series of questions and implement testing to get a better understanding of the child's level of development. Since he may work with a variety of children of different age groups, it's important for a developmental therapist to build rapport with each child and establish a level of trust.
Along with this, he will usually communicate with a child's parents throughout the duration of therapy. This could involve asking parents questions, explaining findings after each session and answering any questions that the parents may have. In some cases, a developmental therapist might also communicate with a child's teachers to gain further insight. Consequently, it's necessary for an individual in this role to effectively communicate with both children and adults.
When the developmental level of a child is determined to be below average, it's the job of a developmental therapist to recommend therapeutic techniques. For example, if a child has a learning disability, the therapist may recommend enrolling the child into specialized classes that address those needs. If a child is experiencing difficulties with speech, he may recommend a program that concentrates on that area. In some instances, he might also prescribe a certain type of medication to treat a disorder. Since every child will respond differently, it's vital for a developmental therapist to adapt to the specific needs of each individual child.
Additionally, it's usually necessary to maintain detailed records for each child seen. This may include parental contact information, initial evaluation findings, individual characteristics of each child, therapeutic techniques used and end results. Keeping these records accurate and up-to-date is important for future reference and may be shared with other professionals who work with or treat the child later on.
A Developmental Therapist does much more than provide evaluation/assessment and make recommendations. S/he engages directly in play activities with a young child for the purpose of maximizing developmental potential when that child has been identified as being "at-risk" for developmental delay. S/he also trains the family and caregivers on techniques of therapeutic play. Referral for ancillary treatment such as speech or other interventions are the domain of the Service Coordinator, and the task of prescribing medication is reserved for pediatricians, nurse practitioners, or doctoral level psychotherapists.
Most importantly, one does not need an advanced degree to enter the field of developmental therapy - usually a bachelor's degree in education, psychology, or social services is the point of entry. Developmental therapists who do practice with advanced training typically hold Master's degrees.
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