Mapping the Journey from Birth to Kindergarten: Medical Specialists Glossary

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

Here, we provide an overview of the primary medical specialties that serve children with disabilities, with a description of the services they typically offer.

Types of Pediatricians

Types of Psychologists and Psychiatrists

Clinical Child Psychologist

Child psychologists specialize in treating children with a range of disorders and behavioral issues. They can provide psychotherapy and administer psychological assessments and tests. They may play a role in diagnosing and treating learning or developmental disorders, and work with the child’s healthcare team to create an individualized treatment plan. While they do not prescribe medications, they may work with a medical professional who does, and they can monitor the child’s response to the medication.

Developmental Psychologist

  • A developmental psychologist specializes in certain ages and stages of people’s lives. A developmental psychologist who specializes in childhood development evaluates children to determine whether or not they have developmental disabilities. Some may work in schools and learning centers, while others work with children in their homes, in hospitals or in mental health facilities. Those with a background in developmental psychology may work in the school setting as an early childhood education specialist or behavioral therapist.

  • Most have a doctoral level of education and typically work in research or at universities.

  • Developmental psychology is an indirect psychology practice and is not considered a health service delivery model (diagnosing and treatment are in the realm of the child psychologist).

Educational Psychologist

An educational psychologist is a qualified teacher who is also trained as a psychologist. They often work with parents, teachers, and children to assess the child’s development, find out about any learning problems, recommend therapies and in-classroom tools, or identify a child’s unmet emotional needs. They might work in a school setting or in private practice.

Pediatric Neuropsychologist

  • Neuropsychology is a specialty field within clinical psychology. Neuropsychologists are dedicated to understanding the functioning of the brain and how it relates to behavior and cognitive ability. They are trained to administer and interpret psychological and educational tests and to assess cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and social functions. A neuropsychologist can help diagnose a cognitive, behavioral, or neurological condition; administer a variety of tests to reveal issues that may impact behavior and learning; and refer patients to clinical psychologists and other specialists for therapy. Note that they often do not provide therapy themselves and they do not prescribe medication.

  • Seeing a neuropsychologist and completing their tests can lead to a deeper understanding of a child’s condition. Areas of specialization include epilepsy, chiari malformation, neuromuscular disorders, and/or sleep disorders.

Pediatric Psychiatrist

  • A pediatric psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and the treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling, and/or behavior that affect children, adolescents, and their families. They provide comprehensive care which can include evaluating and diagnosing disorders and other mental health issues, prescribing and monitoring medications, and providing psychotherapy for the child and/or parents.

  • Areas of speciality include treating those with ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, mood disorders, tics/Tourette syndrome, as well as psychiatric and psychological symptoms that occur with other medical conditions.

Types of Neurologists

Pediatric Neurologist

Pediatric neurologists are medical doctors who work with children and specialize in treating conditions that affect the brain and nervous system. Specialty areas include autism, complex metabolic disorders, muscle and nerve disease, genetic conditions, multiple sclerosis, Tourette syndrome, and malformations. They also help treat those who struggle with headaches, epilepsy and seizures, sleep issues, or developmental conditions. Pediatric neurologists work with children who have genetic or congenital conditions. They are trained to evaluate and diagnose conditions and prescribe and monitor medication.

Epileptologist

Epileptologists are neurologists who specialize in the research, diagnosis, treatment, and management of epilepsy. They are physicians who are trained in neurology and have also completed specialized training and study of epilepsy. Epileptologists will often provide comprehensive care for those suffering from epilepsy, which may begin with a series of tests to ensure the correct diagnosis. Following a diagnosis of epilepsy, they often attempt to determine the causes of the seizures and utilize other treatment techniques that may help manage the condition before prescribing medications. They typically work in hospitals, private practice, epilepsy clinics, or in academic settings.

Types of Vision Care Providers

Pediatric Ophthalmologist

Pediatric ophthalmologists are medical doctors who have extensive specialized training in examining, diagnosing, and treating eye conditions in infants, children, and adolescents. Because pediatric ophthalmologists perform eye operations, they are both surgical and medical specialists. Areas of speciality may include craniofacial abnormalities, neurological eye disorders, retinopathy of prematurity, strabismus (eye misalignment in children and adults), and tear duct obstructions (blocked tear duct).

Neuro-Ophthalmologist

  • Neuro-ophthalmology is a subspecialty of both neurology and ophthalmology. Neuro-ophthalmologists specialize in vision problems that relate to the nervous system. This includes vision problems due to brain injuries or diseases from trauma, stroke, or infection.

  • A neuro-ophthalmologist can diagnose and treat neurological and systemic diseases that affect your sight and the movement of your eyes. They test patients using electroretinography, optical coherence tomography, and multifocal electroretinography (EGR).

Optometrist

Optometrists are primary health care practitioners trained in primary eye care and disease treatment. They are not trained medical professionals so they do not perform eye surgery. Care includes routine vision tests, complete eye examinations, diagnosis of some eye conditions, prescriptions for eyeglasses and contact lenses, and minor surgical procedures.

Vision Therapist

A vision therapist specializes in a sequence of eye exercises that are used to improve the quality and efficiency of vision. It is also called vision training. Vision therapy helps patients’ eyes work more efficiently so they can perform daily tasks like reading and writing with more ease.

Types of Hearing Specialists

Pediatric Audiologist

A pediatric audiologist’s primary role is the early detection and treatment of hearing loss in children. They will often provide newborn hearing screening, comprehensive audiologic evaluations, auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation, auditory steady state response (ASSR) evaluation, hearing aid services, and cochlear implant evaluation and mapping. Areas of specialization include chronic ear disease, congenital ear malformations, speech and language delays, and children who have a history of hospitalization in neonatal care units or meningitis. Audiologists may also collaborate with other specialists in diagnosing a child with certain conditions. For example, they may work with speech and language pathologists (SLPs) in evaluating and treating a child with Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) and the identification of language disorders that occur in association with CAPD.

Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctor (ENT)

Pediatric otolaryngologists, often referred to as a pediatric ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor), is a doctor who specializes in the diseases and disorders of the ears, nose, throat, head, and neck. ENTs provide diagnoses and treatments for the full array of conditions affecting infants and children, such as hearing loss and ear diseases, allergy and sinus disease, voice and swallowing abnormalities, airway problems, cleft lip and palate, and acquired and congenital head and neck masses. Pediatric ENTs also manage and treat disorders of the head and neck.

Other Specialists

Tags:

Contents


Overview

Types of Pediatricians

Types of Psychologists and Psychiatrists

Types of Neurologists

Types of Vision Care Providers

Types of Hearing Specialists

Other Specialists

Join the Undivided Community to get more resources like this in your inbox

Related Parent Questions

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.
What are early intervention services?
Prior to age three, children can receive occupational, physical, and speech therapy from the Regional Center, along with center-based programs and other early intervention services to help with developmental delays.
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.

Promise Image
Each piece of content has been rigorously researched, edited, and vetted to bring you the latest and most up-to-date information. Learn more about our content and research process here.
A Navigator is your Partner at each turn
Every Undivided Navigator has years of experience supporting families raising kids with disabilities or parenting their own. Partner with an Undivided Navigator for a free Kickstart to learn first hand what support feels like!
tick-icon
Identify near-term goals and priorities
tick-icon
Develop a vision for your child and family
tick-icon
Map out strategies to execute near- and long-term goals
“It’s so helpful to have one place that you can go to get many answers.”–Leeza Woodbury, with Navigator Kelly since 2020
*Currently offering Navigator Kickstarts to residents of California