Understanding the roles of a treatment team

Children with disabilities require a number of different health care providers and therapists to maintain and improve their health and functioning. Most disabilities cannot be 'cured' or outgrown but treating the problems that affect your child can help improve functioning and quality of life. There are a variety of professionals and treatments that can help.

A pediatrician will usually serve as your child’s primary health care provider. He/she will refer you to other medical specialists as needed. You can also find out about medical providers from your local hospital, recommendations from other families with children with disabilities, or contact your health plan, medical society or medical school.

Developmental Pediatrician – Developmental pediatricians specialize in treating the health problems of children with developmental delays or handicaps.

Orthopedist - doctors who specialize in treating the bones, muscles, tendons and other parts of the skeletal system.

Neurologist – doctors who specialize in brain disorders and nervous system disorders.

Psychiatrist - medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illnesses. Psychiatrists assess both the mental and physical aspects of psychological problems and they can prescribe medications.

Psychologist - Psychologists assess and treat complex mental and behavioral problems and are trained to help people cope more effectively with life problems. They can also administer tests to measure aptitude and/or deficits in cognitive functioning that may result from some sort of brain damage.

Social Worker – provide counseling services and help people access community resources.

Geneticist - provide genetic testing, diagnose genetic conditions, communicate risks and discuss treatment options for people with genetic conditions.

Speech Therapist – Speech and language therapists (also known as speech therapists or speech-language pathologists) observe, diagnose and treat the communication disorders. They use a program of exercises to teach children how to overcome specific communication difficulties.

Occupational Therapist – helps a child master the basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and using the bathroom alone. Fostering this kind of independence boosts self-reliance and self-esteem, and also helps reduce demands on parents and caregivers.

Physical Therapist – Physical therapy programs use specific sets of exercises and activities to improve movement and prevent further deterioration of the muscles and skeletal system.


Assistive Technology Specialist – helps individuals move about more easily and communicate successfully using special devices and technologies that can extend a person’s physical abilities.