A Pediatric or Child Neurologist specializes in treating problems of the brain, spinal cord, nervous system and muscles, in babies and children up through young adulthood. The word “neuro” refers to nerves or your nervous system. (Nerves help to carry impulses between different parts and organs of your body.) A Pediatric Neurologist may be an important doctor in your child’s care if your child is experiencing particular challenges.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says “Child neurologists often diagnose, treat, and manage the following conditions:
• Seizure disorders, including seizures in newborns, febrile convulsions, and epilepsy
• Medical aspects of head injuries and brain tumors
• Weakness, including cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and nervemuscle disorders
• Headaches, including migraines
• Behavioral disorders, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), school failure, autism, and sleep problems
• Developmental disorders, including delayed speech, motor milestones, and coordination issues
• Intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation)
• Hydrocephalus.” (extra fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord)
A Pediatric Neurologist is a highly qualified specialist who went to medical school and then completed at least 1 or 2 years in a pediatric residency, and then 3 or more years of advanced training in a neurology residency. Most Pediatric Neurologists have attained board certification from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
What should you expect at your child’s first visit?
During a visit with a Pediatric Neurologist, the doctor will take a full history of your child which may include details of your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. The doctor will want to get a full picture of your child to be able to help him. The doctor will speak to you (the parent) and your child if he is old enough to understand and speak.
The doctor will examine your child and check his reflexes, nerves, balance, strength and motor function, and his overall senses. After a thorough examination, he will discuss next steps. He might prescribe additional tests to give him more information, such as an EEG (Electroencephalography) which measures brain wave patterns, and is helpful in diagnosing certain disorders. Once all test results are in, the doctor will discuss his findings with you. He will probably send a letter to your child’s Pediatrician or Family Doctor, with his findings and suggestions for future treatment.
It is always a good idea to bring a list of your questions with you when your child sees a doctor. It can be distracting to be caring for your child during the examination, which may make it easy to forget the questions that you had intended to ask.
Where can you find a Pediatric Neurologist?
If you have concerns about your child’s development, first speak to your child’s health care provider (a Pediatrician or Family Physician). Ask if a referral to a specialist, such as a Pediatric Neurologist, might be helpful. Your provider may recommend one or you can locate a Pediatric Neurologist by clicking on AAP’s physician locator.
If there is an issue or problem with your child’s development, it is always better to seek answers earlier rather than later. A Pediatric Neurologist may be a very important doctor in your child’s care.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. You can find the series here.