Who can help?
Children with growth disorders will need a variety of treatments at each stage of their condition, and will need to see different therapists to help them.
It can be difficult to keep track of who will do what for your child. Below is a list of specialists and the type of treatment they can offer.
What types of doctors and therapists will my child see?
The first person you might see about your child’s growth may be your family doctor or general practitioner.
They will make the initial investigation to see if there are any concerns with regards to your child’s development.
If your doctor decides that your child needs further tests, they will likely refer them to a specialist who will usually be a paediatrician, a doctor specialising in child health. Once your child has a diagnosis, she or he will be referred to other therapists who will work together for your child’s care.
The following section explains who does what in a typical assessment. This is intended as a general guide and your actual experience may vary from this.
|General Practitioner (GP)||
This is probably your family doctor and is the person you visited first for any concerns about your child’s growth. They will make the initial assessment to see if there is an issue that needs further investigation.
Your GP may decide to monitor your child first, or may refer your child directly to a specialist for further tests.
Even when your child is being seen by other therapists, or a paediatrician, your GP should be kept updated of your child’s development. They should see results for all the tests and will remain the primary point of contact for you if you have any questions or concerns about your child's treatment.
You should always see your GP if any new symptoms occur, or if any symptoms become more troubling.
|Paediatrician or medical specialist||
A paediatrician is a doctor who specialises in the medical care of infants, children and adolescents (generally up to the age of 18). The paediatrician is likely to be the first person your child is referred to, and will likely be your main doctor throughout the investigation and treatment process. They will assess your child and decide what types of tests to carry out.
Many paediatricians are also medical specialists focused on a particular condition, and are then also known by their specialty name - examples include: endocrinologist (hormone abnormalities and metabolic disorders), neo-natologist (neonatal treatment), cardiologist (heart disease), nephrologist (kidney disease), allergist (allergy).
Once your child has been diagnosed, your paediatrician will discuss with you the types of treatments available and help you to decide what to do next.
You will probably see your paediatrician every few months so she or he can monitor your child’s progress.
|Pharmacist||A pharmacist is an expert in medicines. She or he will be able to answer any questions you have about the types of medications your child is taking and any side effects or problems your child may be having with them. Pharmacists can also provide general health advice for your child.|
|Physiotherapist||The physiotherapist will help your child with any problems with movement, balance and posture. They work to improve strength and muscle condition. Children with growth conditions often experience pain; a physiotherapist can teach your child how to protect themselves from painful joints and how to cope with pain in general.|
|Occupational therapist||An occupational therapist works with your child to help them to live as independently as possible. They will teach your child how to perform daily activities in ways that work for your child's individual needs at the time, and may recommend that your child uses 'aids' to help. Examples of such aids are special footstools, and chair pads for use at home or school. Your child will be taught how best to use any aids that are recommended.|
A dietician will help to ensure that your child’s diet is nutritionally balanced and optimised to promote growth.
You may also be referred to a dietician if your doctor thinks there is an underlying digestive condition that may be causing growth problems for your child, such as coeliac’s disease.
A dietician can also help if your child is or becomes overweight, by providing balanced, energy-restricted diets that are suitable for children.
|Psychologist or psychotherapist||
A psychologist or psychotherapist can help your child cope with his or her condition.
It is natural for a child with a growth condition to feel angry, scared or sad about what is happening to them.
If emotions are not discussed and are kept ‘inside’ they can cause more damage and the feelings can overwhelm the child, leading to further problems such as depression.
Psychotherapy can be used to provide practical solutions such as helping your child to deal with real life situations that they find difficult or scary. By talking through these - and perhaps practising the best way to approach them – the child can feel more empowered and able to cope.
Parents can also find it difficult to cope with their child’s condition, and seeing a psychologist or psychotherapist may be helpful in those situations too.
A rheumatologist is a doctor who specialises in joint problems. They will look at how the joints are developing and can prescribe medication to help with joint pain.
Your child may also see other types of therapists depending on his or her condition. For example, if a child needs surgery they will be referred to the orthopaedic surgeon.
If you need more information on the types of therapists who will be involved in the care of your child, please contact your GP or speak to your paediatrician.
Making the most of seeing a healthcare professional
Here are some practical tips to help you in your discussions with healthcare professionals:
- Take notes: This will help you to track the information provided by the different health care professionals who will see your child. You can take notes on paper or ask to record your consultations on your smartphone, so you can come back to it later and ask more questions/refresh your memory. Keeping all your notes in one place will help you to follow up on things if you need to.
- Ask questions: If you don’t understand something, politely ask the doctor or therapist to explain – they will appreciate your honesty.
- Ask for time-frames: If you are being referred to a different therapist or doctor, ask for their name and how long it might take for the referral appointment to come through.
- Follow up: Don’t be afraid to follow up with either your specialist or your GP if you don’t hear back about results or appointments within the expected timeframe.
- Prepare ahead: Ask what is likely to happen at your next appointment and how you can best prepare for it.
- Ask for support: Ask if there are good websites, sources of information or patient groups that might be useful for you and your child.