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What is a Developmental Pediatrician?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A developmental pediatrician, sometimes referred to as a developmental behavioral pediatrician, is a doctor who primarily focuses on the overall development of a child from birth to adolescence. As with any doctor, a developmental pediatrician goes through medical school in addition to training and certification in a variety of behavioral issues. Doctors in this specialty evaluate, diagnose, and often manage the treatment of children with both congenital and acquired behavioral issues as well as those with social and motor skill delays. They provide treatment in a variety of settings and often help with the patient's specific issues and also the child's family dynamic.

A doctor who chooses to specialize as a developmental pediatrician typically goes through the requisite four years of medical school and a three year residency as most doctors do. Following residency, a doctor often takes additional courses in childhood development and behavior and possibly partakes in an internship or fellowship focusing on pediatric medicine. Many countries provide board certification for developmental pediatrics; doctors wishing to focus on this area typically have to pass an exam in order to obtain certification and take subsequent tests to maintain their certificate.

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A developmental pediatrician focuses on all of the numerous issues that can delay a child's physical development such as sleep or eating disorders, motor skill delays, and speech delays. Developmental pediatricians also treat issues such as attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), learning disorders, and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These doctors also help to address many of the issues that children with Tourette's syndrome, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy face.

Hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and even schools often employ a developmental pediatrician. Many major hospitals, especially research and children's hospitals, often dedicate an entire department to developmental pediatrics. A developmental pediatrician may also work at a private practice, for a health department, or for a community outreach program. Outside of evaluating, diagnosing, and treating behavioral issues, a developmental pediatrician usually provides general pediatric care to patients as well.

Unlike most general pediatricians, a developmental pediatrician often provides treatment for not only the young patient, but also for the child's family. As most developmental delays and behavioral issues are best treated and managed as a joint effort among doctors, teachers, and families, these specialists typically work with parents and caregivers to help with any family issues that stem from the patient's diagnosis. This can include parenting advice, family therapy referrals, and instructing caregivers how to provide developmentally delayed children with the care they need to reach their full potential.

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