Developmental-Behavioral Pediatricians 101

Article
Aug. 20, 2021Updated Oct. 31, 2022

Developmental-behavioral pediatricians (also known as developmental pediatricians) specialize in evaluating and treating infants, children, and young adults with developmental delays, behavioral challenges, learning disabilities, and more. A developmental pediatrician can play a central role in your child’s overall care, providing guidance, referrals, and support, and helping coordinate care with your child’s other physicians, therapists, and educators.

Unlike a general pediatrician, developmental pediatricians do not provide routine medical care or yearly check-ups. Instead, they focus on assessing, diagnosing, and treating children who experience or are at risk of developmental delays as well as issues with speech, motor, and social skills. According to LA-based developmental-behavioral pediatrician Dr. Josh Mandelberg, M.D., F.A.A.P., the approach will change depending on the child’s age, diagnoses, and individual needs.

“When children are school-aged, we might look at issues of learning or attention,” Mandelberg explains. “We might assess kids for issues of anxiety or other social-emotional issues. We also see kids who have had other challenges — for example, children who were born prematurely or spent time in the NICU, so they may be at risk of having a developmental issue.”

What Conditions Do Developmental Pediatricians Diagnose and Treat?

What Services Do Developmental Pediatricians Provide?

Some of the services developmental pediatricians provide include the following:

  • Evaluations to help diagnose complex issues
  • Ongoing assessments
  • Consultations with other professionals involved in your child’s care
  • An overall plan of care for your child (and monitoring the plan of care)
  • Suggested and prioritized treatments
  • Recommendations for other professionals who can assist with ongoing treatment
  • Medication (prescribing and monitoring)
  • Recommendations for accommodations and modifications, as well as therapies within and outside of school

A developmental pediatrician may also refer your child to a different specialist for services outside of their scope, such as genetic testing. They can also function as an advocate in a school setting, with insurance companies, and helping connect families with government-funded services.

Because a developmental pediatrician will likely only see your child for a few hours at a time, it’s important to share your child’s overall plan of care with their therapists, teachers, doctors, and other people involved in their life to better work toward their therapeutic goals outside of the doctor’s office. Dr. Mandelberg notes that this sort of “homework” can make early intervention more effective. Dr. Mandelberg adds that for this reason, it’s important to keep big-picture goals in mind when building a child’s therapy team and find therapists who prioritize collaboration with parents and other therapists and providers. ”It’s important for therapists to try to involve parents and caregivers as much as possible, and to coordinate with teachers,” he says.

To read more about early intervention, check out our article series, Mapping the Journey from Birth to Kindergarten: The 4 Ws of Early Intervention.

We’ll have more to share on what questions to ask your developmental pediatrician and other insights soon, so be sure to check back!

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Contents


Overview

What Conditions Do Developmental Pediatricians Diagnose and Treat?

What Services Do Developmental Pediatricians Provide?

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Related Parent Questions

What conditions do developmental-behavioral pediatricians treat?
A developmental pediatrician can diagnose and treat a wide array of developmental and behavioral conditions, including autism, ADHD, regulatory disorders, delayed development, learning disorders, behavioral disorders, and genetic conditions that affect child development.
What do developmental-behavioral pediatricians do?
Developmental-behavioral pediatricians (also known as developmental pediatricians) specialize in evaluating and treating infants, children, and young adults with developmental, behavioral, and learning disorders such as Down syndrome, ADHD, and autism.
When should I start early intervention services?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are certain milestones in an infant’s first year to pay attention to when it comes to seeking out speech, physical, occupational, and behavioral therapy. Eighty percent of brain growth occurs during the first three years of life, so earlier is better.

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