Roles of Professionals Who Can Support Your Child

Assessing Neurodiversity and Learning Differences   


Qualified medical professionals and service providers work in partnership with families to support the physical, academic, and emotional well-being of children. Families take unique routes to identifying cognitive diversity, and pediatricians are valuable resources to help families initiate evaluations for therapeutic services and special education access. Cognitive diversity is rising within pediatric care, and therapeutic goals often aim to increase participation and access to various environments and curriculum. Pediatricians work with families to advocate for their clients and guide them through optimal therapies that benefit children’s unique needs, which may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Pediatric providers collaborate with families seeking special education services and accommodations for patients with cognitive diversity or other disabilities.  

When exploring cognitive diversity in children, additional providers include:  


School Districts  

In addition to working with medical professionals, families collaborate with school districts to evaluate their children to determine eligibility for special education services. The most common services that children with IEPs receive include speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy. For qualifying students, service providers work with students, families, and educators to provide structured and individualized intervention. Services differ to meet the individual needs of each student, and to address educational goals and build foundational life skills for health and wellbeing.  

Common Types of Therapy Services  

Occupational Therapy (OT)  

Occupational therapists help children develop the skills necessary for daily living and self-care by supporting fine motor skills, visual and sensory processing, and upper extremity function. Occupational therapists may provide equipment to increase accessibility to activities and participation at school, at home, and in the community. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) provides information to families about the role of occupational therapy, and the ways that occupational therapy positively impacts health, education, and student well-being.  

Speech Language Hearing Sciences (SLHS)  

Speech language therapists support children’s language, communication, and social communication disorders. They may focus on oral motor skills, expressive language, or AAC devices to provide robust linguistic systems to clients with complex communication needs.     

Physical Therapy (PT)  

Physical Therapists focus on gross motor skills, and building physical fitness, endurance, and strength. Their work aims to increase physical movement to access activities and physically participate in various environments. The Academy of Pediatric Physical Therapy provides several fact sheets and resources about therapeutic services for children.   



Houtrow, A., et al. (2019). "Prescribing Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapy Services for Children With Disabilities." Pediatrics 143(4): e20190285.
Lipkin, P. H., et al. (2015). "The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for Children With Special Educational Needs." Pediatrics 136(6): e1650-e1662.


The UCSF | UC Berkeley Schwab Dyslexia & Cognitive Diversity Center does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of external resources. Sharing available information is not endorsement of viewpoints expressed from external sources, nor is it a substitute for advice from medical professionals.