Audiologist, Developmental Pediatrician , Educational Consultant, Educational Diagnostician, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Neuropsychologist (Pediatric), Occupational Therapist (OT), Pediatric Neurologist, Physical Therapist (PT), Psychiatrist (Child), Psychologist, Speech Language Pathologist (CCC-SLP)
Specializes in hearing loss and deafness. Testing is different from what a child gets at the doctor’s office. They can determine the level of hearing loss a child is experiencing. They fit children with hearing aids and other assistive listening devices. They are part of a professional team when children get cochlear implants. Although some practicing audiologists may hold master’s degrees, a doctorate degree is now required to become an audiologist.
A pediatrician who has additional training in the evaluation and management of developmental, academic, and/or behavioral symptoms and topics. A developmental pediatrician is most likely to see children with autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, and other developmental and related learning disorders.
Anybody can call themselves an educational consultant. They generally work as independent contractors who help families find a school placement that fits their child’s learning needs. Due to the large number of private schools in the DFW area, using the services of a consultant is not uncommon. Fees for services can be expensive and those with limited resources should be especially cautious and do their homework. It is not a licensed or regulated profession. It is up to the consumer to investigate the qualifications and expertise of an educational consultant. Be especially careful if the consultant performs tests or assessments and make sure they are qualified to do so. All standardized tests require administrators to have specific training, and in some cases advanced degrees and licensing. Check references carefully.
A diagnostician can diagnose learning differences and assess a child’s academic achievement level and administer a psycho-educational evaluation. They can interpret the test results and provide a learning profile of strengths and challenges that are helpful in educational planning and setting goals. They work as part of an intervention team in the schools. In the state of Texas, they hold a Master’s degree and meet the State certification requirements.
Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC)
A counselor is a mental health professional who provides therapeutic services to a family or child. In the State of Texas an LPC must have a Master’s or Doctoral level degree in counseling or a related field. They are licensed by the State to practice and must meet requirements each year to maintain their license to practice. They make referrals to a specialist when necessary. Some LPCs who work with children are also Registered Play Therapists.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
Social workers who meet the requirements of the Texas Department of State Health Services may be LCSW allowing them to diagnose and treat children in private practice settings. They are mental health care professionals with a broad scope of practice. They are able to help children and families in individual, group, and clinical settings.
A doctoral level (PhD) psychologist with special training in how the brain functioning affects learning, behavior, and emotions. A pediatric neuropsychologist evaluation is different from that of a psychologist in that it focuses on attention, memory, perception, coordination, language, and personality. They diagnose learning disorders and work with children who have had brain injuries.
Occupational Therapist (OT)
Therapists who focus on the functional activities of daily living. A child’s “occupation” is self-care and independence at home and school. Areas addressed in therapy are safety, dressing, feeding, leisure activities, and job skills (for teens and adults). The most common services for children include help with motor coordination, handwriting, and issues of sensory integration. Not all OTs focus on or practice sensory integration therapy. It has gained mainstream acceptance but is considered “alternative” by some professionals. If an OT has the acronym “SIPT” after their name it indicates that they are trained and certified in the administration of the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test, which is a standardized test that can be administered to children during evaluation. A therapist does not have to have a special certification to practice sensory integration principles. Ask the individual therapist what their orientation is regarding sensory integration if that is something you are seeking for your child. OTs have Master’s level degrees and license to practice and they may supervise assistants (OTAs).
A medical doctor (M.D.) who treats disorders and medical conditions in children related to the nervous system (the brain). Conditions can include seizures, epilepsy, muscle disorders, headaches, brain injuries and tumors, cognitive impairment (mental retardation), and developmental disorders with behavioral and learning symptoms. They may prescribe medications to manage conditions.
Therapists who help children gain, or regain, physical strength, coordination, balance, and endurance. They work on both gross and fine motor skills. They may work with children who have had injuries or children with congenital (birth defects), or developmental disorders. Cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and torticollis are common conditions seen by PTs. A Master’s level degree and a license are required for PTs. They may also supervise assistants (PTAs).
A medical doctor (M.D.) specializing in issues concerning mental health and illnesses. A child psychiatrist can prescribe medications to manage emotions, moods, and behavior. Often confused with psychologists, child psychiatrists may work more closely with a team of medical professionals when both medical and psychiatric conditions overlap. Child and adolescent psychiatry is a subspecialty in the broader field of general psychiatry.
A therapist with a doctoral degree (PhD) in psychology. They are qualified to diagnose and treat clients of all ages. There is no additional certification to become a “child psychologist.” Often confused with “psychiatrist” (a medical doctor), a psychologist, does not prescribe medications. In children, psychologists frequently diagnose ADHD, Asperger’s, anxiety, depression, and other disorders that relate to mood, emotion, behavior, and learning. Psychologists may have a specific “orientation” which means they practice from a specific point of view in the field of psychology. As an example, a psychologist may practice Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Because the field of psychology is so broad it may be important to ask the psychologist if they have a specific orientation in their practice and/or if they focus on a specific population (ie autism, ADHD, depression, adolescence, etc.). This is especially important if you are starting with a list of names provided by your insurance company and you do not know anything about the nature of their practice.
Speech Language Pathologist (CCC-SLP)
Speech therapists assess, diagnose, and treat communication and swallowing disorders. Speech disorders include problems with articulation (making the speech sounds correctly) and motor speech disorders like apraxia and dysarthria, which are related to motor movements and muscle strength and coordination. Language disorders include problems with the expression or understanding of spoken or written language. Among disorders treated are: language learning disorders, autism, stuttering, and voice disorders. SLPs also treat swallowing and feeding disorders. Among children, these are most common in preterm infants and children with sensory based or aversive feeding problems. SLPs are Master’s level, licensed professionals and the “C’s” stand for “Certificate of Clinical Competencies,” which are now required for an individual to practice. SLPs work in schools, hospitals, clinics, and private practices.
Note: All of the professionals above may work in coordination or as part of interdisciplinary teams to help a child achieve the best possible outcome. Many disorders and medical conditions overlap the scope of practice of these professionals. As a parent, you are likely the coordinator of intervention for your child. It is helpful to keep medical and treatment history in a file and take it with you to show each professional your child sees.