Early Childhood Intervention: Module Three – The Professionals

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Mental Health Therapists: Psychotherapists, Psychologists and Social Work Counsellors

There is a wide variety of mental health practitioners, and understanding the role that each one plays can be confusing. The following practitioners provide mental health support: psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric social workers, psychiatric nurses, counselors, pastoral counselors, and other professionals who call themselves ‘therapists.’ Others practice alternative therapies, for  example, reiki and others.  In Canada, certain regulations ensure that therapists have had a specific training for their area of work.  Not all therapists are psychologists and not all psychologists are trained therapists. Mental Health Canada provides some useful information on therapists and therapies.

Psychologists who work on inter-professional teams and conduct psycho-educational assessments pre-kindergarten. e.g Hearing Loss team at Sunny Hill Health Centre for children which includes a developmental pediatrician, clinical psychologist, nurse clinician, speech &  language pathologist, occupational therapist & physiotherapist. Some or all of these professionals may be involved in the assessment of children with multiple diagnoses.

A psychiatrist is a physician  whose education includes a medical degree (MD or DO) and at least four additional years of study and training. As physicians, psychiatrists can prescribe and monitor medications.


Psychiatrists are the primary mental healthcare givers. They provide medical/psychiatric evaluation and treatment for emotional and behavioral problems and psychiatric disorders.

They assess and treat mental illnesses through a combination of psychotherapy (see full Glossary), psychoanalysis (see full Glossary), hospitalization, and medication.

Further reading in this topic:
Source: Young, R. & Nichol, J. (2007). Counseling in Canada. Advancing psychology for all. Applied Psychology, 56(1), 20–32, January 2007

January 30, 2012   No Comments


General pediatricians are MD specialists who care for the health of infants, children, teenagers, and young adults. They specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of ailments specific to young people and track patients’ growth to adulthood.

Just like General pediatrician, Developmental pediatrician who works in inter-professional team with nurse clinician, speech &  language pathologist, occupational therapist & physiotherapist. Some or all of these professionals may be involved in the assessment of children with multiple diagnoses.
Some pediatricians have an additional specialization. For example, some of them become pediatric surgeons, pediatric neurologists, or pediatric immunologists (see full Glossary).


Like most physicians, pediatricians work with different healthcare workers, such as nurses and other physicians, to assess and treat children. Most of the work of pediatricians involves treating day-to-day illnesses—minor injuries, infectious diseases, and immunizations—that are common to children, much as a general practitioner treats adults.

January 30, 2012   No Comments

The “S” Professionals

School Psychologist

School psychologists receive training to assess (see full Glossary) children who may have additional developmental or learning needs.  School psychologists work on a one-on one basis with a child to gather information about the child’s needs, challenges and gifts in their academic, adaptive, language and social and emotional skills. School psychologists support students, teachers and teaching assistants, principals and parents.  School psychologists refer to, and are part of, the School Based Team or SBT and provide their input for the students’ IEP or Individualized Educational Plan. In British Columbia, Canada, school psychologists work with groups of schools within a school district (see full Glossary).

Special Educator/Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers work with children with special needs in special education programs (Fig. 1) or classrooms within elementary and high schools. Special education teachers work on one-on-one or small groups and follow the recommendations of the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This means that the work they do with the children has modified from the regular school curriculum. They do so in order to meet the children’s unique educational and learning needs. Special education teachers try different ways to teach with children, including the use of materials the children can touch or listen to in order to learn to read and write. Special education teachers are part of the School Based Team (SBT) and work together with other classroom and resource teachers, principals, other school professionals and parents.

Figure 1. Special Education Program

Speech and Language Pathologist

Speech and language pathologists or SLPs (Fig. 2) work with children who have difficulties learning to communicate (for example, making sounds because they have difficulties in their speech) or with children who have difficulty understanding information even when they can hear, and when then information is spoken in the child’s native language or “mother tongue.” The role of a speech language pathologist is to identify difficulties and help with the prevention of speech, language, fluency, voice, cognitive, and other related communication disorders. SLPs use different exercises or techniques to help children learn how to make sounds and speak; these include exercises with their tongues, lips, and even with swallowing for children who have major physical or motor impairments. This is why most of the time SLPs work with other professionals as part of inter-disciplinary teams, or in private consultation and collaboration with others. SLPs may work in health units and health care centres, in school districts, or with child development centres and agencies.

Speech and language
Figure 2. Speech and language pathologist

School Support Teacher

The school support teacher (Fig. 3) or educational assistant works with children with additional needs. He or she works in collaboration with, and under the supervision of,  classroom  and resource teachers. Working with classroom and resource teachers, school support teachers implement the specific strategies and techniques in the child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). School support workers may work in-class, with the targeted child or children as part of the larger classroom, or in a one-on-one, pull-out setting.

Figure 3. School support teacher

Social Worker

Social workers (Fig. 4) are trained to work with children and families who need support in urgent or critical situations when families cannot help themselves. Examples of these situations may include family crises where violence, neglect or any type of abuse may be happening; the loss of a job and the risk of losing a home when there is no money to pay the rent or no food to bring to the table; having a child with disabilities or with mental health needs and needing additional support, and other similar situations. Social workers work under government legislation. They may act as protectors of children’s or adult’s rights, or as advocates in front of the law, and may have to testify in court (Fig. 5 and 6). They work in homes, in family centres, in hospitals, and in major health and development support centres. They take part in major decisions around children and families, and work as part of multi- or inter-disciplinary teams. They may work with, and receive additional support from, social work assistants when working in government or large health or family agencies.

Figure 4. Social worker

Figure 5. Testifying in court

Figure 6. Court

Supported Child Development Consultant

Supported child development consultants (Fig. 7) work with children ages 3 – 19 years with special or additional needs.  Consultants work with families at home, and also with teachers and child care providers working in preschool, daycare and out-of-school care programs. While working with children, their teachers, or other service providers, consultants help come up with individual service plans for children that reflect the choices and priorities of their families. At the same time, they make sure the centres the child attends are inclusive and that they address the child’s individual needs. Working on a one-on-one basis, the work of a supported child development consultant aims to enable parents to that they take charge of major decisions on behalf of their children and themselves. Supported child development consultants work under the supervision of a program coordinator. The program coordinator plans and directs the Supported Child Development Program (SCDP). The Office of the Provincial Advisor provided guidance, training and direction for all SCD and ASCDP programs in the province until December of 2009, when the MCFD terminated this office.

Figure 7. Child development consultant

August 27, 2011   No Comments

The “R” Professionals

Resource Teachers/Learning Assistance Teachers


Resource or Learning Assistance (LAC) Teachers work with children with developmental delays or with learning disabilities in one-to-one or small group settings.  These teachers have received special training to work with children with additional needs in Special Education.

LAC teachers play an active role in providing services to children with additional needs. LAC teachers work use the child’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) to develop a program that suits the child’s needs. They do this work in collaboration with parents, the classroom teacher, others in the school-based team, for example, the school psychologist, and other professionals in the school and community. These include the following: special needs teacher/educator, special needs assistants, counselors, speech language pathologists/therapists (SLP), and school administrators, including the principal.

Resource or LAC teachers collaborate with parents and other professionals. When children need specialized services, they assist with the referral process, for example, to physiotherapy or to pediatric developmental assessments. They also work closely with teachers and the School Based Team (SBT) to plan, organize and access support services for students with special needs.

Resource teachers provide the major link with other support services available at the district (see full Glossary) level. Students who have severe disabilities usually require access to more specialized programs and services. Resource teachers may work in a “pull-out model” when they take children out of their regular classroom for one-to-one or small group support.

They may also work in a “resource model” in schools where they combine learning assistance with other special education services. This means that one resource teacher works with a number of classroom teachers to provide support for all students in their classroom. For example, students in the high and low incidence (see full Glossary) groups; those who have mild learning difficulties; those who may need gifted support or enrichment; and in some cases, those who are learning English as a second language.

August 27, 2011   No Comments

“C” Professionals

Clinical Psychologist

The goal of a clinical psychologist is to reduce mental distress for his or her patient. Clinical psychologists often work in teams with other kinds of professionals, such as psychiatristsoccupational therapists, and social worker to address complex patient problems from different perspectives. Clinical psychology may be confused with psychiatry, which generally has similar goals (e.g. reducing mental distress). The difference is that  psychiatrists are physicians with medical degrees. They tend to focus on medication-based solutions, although some also provide psychotherapeutic services as well.

Clinical psychologists require intensive training beyond their university degree in psychology. They need to complete a Master’s or PhD graduate level of training under rigorous supervision.

They can offer a range of professional services, including:

  • Administering and interpreting psychological assessment and testing;
  • Conducting psychological research;
  • Consultation (especially with schools and businesses);
  • Development of prevention and treatment programs;
  • Program administration;
  • Providing expert testimony (forensic psychology);
  • Providing psychological treatment (psychotherapy);
  • Teaching.

In practice, clinical psychologists may work with individuals, couples, families, or groups in a variety of settings, including private practices, hospitals, mental health organizations, schools, businesses, and non-profit agencies.

Counseling Psychologist

Counseling psychology is a specific kind of psychologist who researches and/or works in several broad domains. These domains are: counseling process and outcome; supervision and training; career development and counseling; and prevention and health. What most counseling psychologists have in common are the way they focus on the person’s positive aspects, that is, their assets and strengths. These professionals support the person’s interaction with their family members and community at large. This is known as “person-environment interactions.” Another focus of their work is on looking at options for educational and career development. Their work is based on sessions for a limited amount of time, or “brief interactions,” with individuals, couples or group. In contrast to psychiatrists, they do not work with patients suffering from medical-based conditions, known as “pathologies;” they focus instead on “intact personalities,” that is, supporting a person to solve certain problems that are related to specific situation, like the loss of a loved one, a job transition, and others.   In Canada, a specialized graduate program accredited by the Canadian Psychological Association is required to become a licensed counseling psychologist. Counselling psychologists may be involved in counseling individuals (children, youth and adults), couples, or groups, as well research and teaching.

Psychologists who work on inter-professional teams and conduct psycho-educational assessments pre-kindergarten. e.g Hearing Loss team at Sunny Hill Health Centre for children which includes a developmental pediatrician, clinical psychologist, nurse clinician, speech &  language pathologist, occupational therapist & physiotherapist. Some or all of these professionals may be involved in the assessment of children with multiple diagnoses.

Deaf/Blind Specialist/Consultant

Children who are deaf/blind are considered to have a dual sensory loss and has specific diagnostic and support needs that are different from  a child who is either deaf or blind. This child requires the support of a specialist referred to as deaf/blind consultant (Fig. 1) and day-to-day support is offered through an intervention.

Figure 1. Deaf/blind specialist

The deaf/blind consultant meets with families, introduces them to the world of deaf/blindness and establishes communication methods and intervention techniques including cues, routines and motivation to use with their deaf/blind child. He or she is also available to attend medical or other agency meetings as required and requested by the family to offer support and expertise.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Consultant (Teachers of the Deaf or Hard of Hearing-TDHH)

In BC we have several programs that offer the services of teachers of the deaf or hard of hearing (TDHH).  When your child is first diagnosed with hearing loss or is deaf, you will have a support team. If your child is diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing through the hospital or at birth, you can access the services of BCEHP – British Columbia Early Hearing Program. This program can link you with professionals as well as parent support. Communication for an infant or child who is deaf or hard of hearing can take place using many strategies such as sign language, cued speech or speech.

Depending on your child’s specific needs and your family’s needs, you can explore several options for communication choices.

When working with the deaf and hard of hearing consultant or TDHH, you will be introduced to many new terms that are related to the ear, the hearing system and to the technology that will help you.

Click here for a glossary of terms that will assist you in understanding what do each one of these terms means.

The TDHH will provide information on stimulating early communication and how to monitor your baby’s communication progress using assessments and individualized family service plans (IFSP).  The TDHH teaches you ways to encourage your baby’s communication development during play and home routines.

Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapists (AVT):

The auditory verbal therapist or AVT (see full Glossary) has been trained to provide services that promote spoken language development for babies and children with hearing loss. He or she can teach you ways to encourage communication development during play and home routines. These therapists work with teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing  in the child’s home or at the centre in which the child receives services. If a family lives in a rural or remote area, the AVT will provide visits and support using distance learning technology such as webcams or videoconferencing.

See BCEHP”s website Glossary of terms http://www.phsa.ca/AgenciesAndServices/Services/BCEarlyHearing/AdditionalResources/CommunityResources/default.htm
BC Family Hearing Centre’s Glossary of terms http://www.bcfamilyhearing.com/glossary/

May 10, 2011   No Comments