A medical specialist round-up

Most of the time, there’s no one better to look after a toddler when they're having trouble than their pediatrician or family doctor. But when it comes to developmental concerns, behavioral concerns, or other more serious or rare potential health issues, or if you feel that your child’s pediatrician isn’t fully hearing your concerns, it can be helpful to consult with a specialist who is familiar with the specific area of healthcare that your child needs.

Why might my toddler need to see a specialist?

Toddlers can benefit from seeing specialists for reasons as simple as checking in with an ear, nose, and throat specialist for an ear infection, or as difficult to pin down as potential developmental delays. Here are a few types of specialists toddlers may be referred to if their pediatricians feel they need the opinion or care of a specialist:
  • Ear, nose, and throat specialist, or ENT: ENTs specialize in exactly what the name says: the ears, nose, and throat, and the channels that connect these systems together, through which disease can spread.
  • Pediatric surgeon: Young children and toddlers’ growing bodies are unique enough that any surgical procedure a child is recommended for will be performed by a pediatric surgeon.
  • Pediatric gastroenterologist: Since growing children have digestive systems that are still developing, it’s important that digestive issues or concerns they might have be looked at by a specialist who has studied children’s digestive systems.
  • Pediatric pulmonologist: These specialists look at problems with the lungs, including breathing problems or serious asthma in children.
  • Audiologist: Pediatric audiologists diagnose and treat hearing loss, which can be identified at birth, but can also develop later.
  • Developmental-behavioral pediatrician: Children who are having developmental, emotional or behavioral problems are often referred to developmental-behavioral pediatricians, especially if their usual pediatricians aren’t used to seeing or diagnosing the symptoms the child is showing.
  • Speech and language pathologist: Children who have speech delays, trouble forming words, or other potential speech disorders may benefit from a consultation with a speech and language pathologist.
  • Occupational therapist: Children are often referred to occupational therapists when they’ve been diagnosed, and are being recommended certain therapies as treatment.

When would I see a specialist, and how do I get a referral?

A baby, child, or toddler’s usual pediatrician or family doctor will usually refer to a specialist if they feel they are showing symptoms that a primary care provider doesn’t know how to respond to, cannot diagnose, or that requires more specific information or expertise. Parents can also request a referral if they feel their usual pediatrician or family doctor might not have as much experience with certain concerns, issues or disorders as they might like, or they feel like they could benefit from a second opinion.

  • Liz Hoffman. “When your child’s ear infection means it’s time to see an ENT.” Chicago Parent. Wednesday Journal Inc. October 15 2010. Web.
  • “Guidelines for Referral to Pediatric Surgical Specialists.” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “Pediatric Audiology Referral Guide.” Children’s Hospital Oakland. UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, 2016. Web.
  • “What is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician?” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “What is a Pediatric Gastroenterologist?” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “What is a Pediatric Pulmonologist?” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “What is a Pediatric Surgeon?” HealthyChildren. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
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