By CAROLYN JURY (BAppSocSci, Counselling)
Support and Information Coordinator
When your child is diagnosed with a disability or serious health condition, your world can feel like it has been tipped upside down. Everything changes and it can be a very steep learning curve to familiarise yourself not only with the condition and it’s effects, but also the huge number of professionals who are now an integral part of your child’s life. Below is a list of professionals you may come across on your journey and a brief explanation of their roles.
Paediatrician: A medical doctor who specialises in the health, development and medical care of babies and children.
Dietician: Provides advice about diet, nutrition, specialised diets, supplements and can also work with a Speech Language Therapist to assess swallowing and chewing issues.
Neurologist: A medical doctor who specialises in conditions affecting the brain and nervous system, such as epilepsy and muscular conditions.
Occupational Therapist (OT): Provides therapeutic interventions to overcome difficulties in everyday functional activities, such as dressing, classroom activities and personal cares. This can be done through therapeutic techniques, specialised equipment and environmental modifications, OTs can also assess and treat sensory issues.
Physiotherapist (PT): Work with children with physical disabilities to assess their needs and provide interventions
Speech Language Therapist (SLT): Assesses and treat issues with communication, speech and language. May also assess issues with swallowing and implement alternative communication systems such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS).
Geneticist: Examine DNA to detect or rule out chromosomal abnormalities and genetic conditions. Also assess whether the condition is inheritable and whether subsequent children may have the same condition.
Psychiatrist: A medical doctor who specialises in mental health conditions and can prescribe medication. Can also diagnose developmental conditions such as autism.
Clinical Psychologist: Has studied psychology but is not a medical doctor. Works to address behavioural issues by looking at the function of the behaviour and developing a behaviour management plan. May be part of the diagnostic process for some conditions.
Play Specialist: Uses play to help children make sense of challenging or traumatic life experiences and express their emotions through play.
Special Education Needs Coordinator (SENCO): A specialist teacher who identifies children with additional learning needs and facilitates appropriate supports. May work directly with the child, or in conjunction with classroom teachers and Teacher Aides.
Teacher Aide/ Kaiāwhina Kaiako: Teacher aides assist teachers in a classroom by working with students on a one-on-one basis, or in small groups.
Resource Teachers: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB): Work together with teachers and schools to support the achievement of students in Years 1-10 with learning and/or behaviour difficulties.
Educational Psychologist/ Special Education Advisor: Assess learning profiles and special educational needs including behaviour issues, in school settings. Also provide support to teachers, parents and students.
Resource Teachers Vision and Deaf: Specialist teachers who work with children who have impairments of vision or hearing
Kaitakawaenga: Māori cultural advisors who ensure Māori students are worked with in culturally appropriate ways
Education Support Worker (ESW): Work 1-1 with the child in an early childhood education centre to assist them in their learning and socialisation needs. They promote independence, engagement with others and support their learning