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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Health and social care professionals you may meet

There may be a range of people involved in your child's care. You probably know what some of them do - like doctors, for example - but others may be new to you. Find out about some of the most common roles you may come across.

Clinical psychologist

A clinical psychologist is a health professional who helps people with specific problems with learning or behaviour difficulties.

Communication support worker

A communication support worker works alongside teachers to provide sign language support for young deaf children in nursery or school.


A dietician is a health professional who gives advice about nutrition and swallowing or feeding difficulties.

Educational psychologist

An educational psychologist is qualified teacher who is also trained as a psychologist. They help children who find it difficult to learn or to understand or communicate with others. They can assess your child's development and provide support and advice.

General practitioner (GP)

A GP is a family doctor who works in a surgery either on their own or with other GPs. Your doctor deals with your child's general health and can refer you to clinics, hospitals and specialists when needed. They may also support applications for benefits or other types of help.

Health visitor

A health visitor is a registered nurse or a midwife with additional training. They visit families at home to give help, advice and practical assistance about the care of very young children. Some areas have specialist health visitors who have particular experience and expertise supporting families with a young disabled child.

Key worker

Some families have a key worker. A key worker will see you regularly and make sure you have all the information you need. They will also make sure that services from all the different areas, including health, education and social services, are well co-ordinated.

Key workers can act as a central point of contact for professionals working with your family. The will make sure information about your child is shared where necessary.

'Designated' and 'non-designated' key workers

A 'non-designated' key worker is someone who is already working with a family, in another role. They take on the responsibilities of a key worker in addition to any other help or therapy they provide for the child or parents.

'Designated' key workers are employed mainly to co-ordinate information and support for families. They do not normally provide specialised care themselves.

Learning disability nurses

Learning disability nurses are specialist nurses who work with children and adults with a learning disability and with their families. They can help you find services for your child.

Learning support assistant / teaching assistant

A learning support assistant or teaching assistant is someone who works alongside teachers. They support individual children or small groups to help them learn and take part in activities in schools or nurseries.

Named officer

A named officer is your family's contact person at the local education authority, if it issues a statement of special educational needs for your child. They manage your child's statutory assessment and write up the statement of needs.

Paediatric occupational therapist

A paediatric occupational therapist helps children with difficulties in carrying out the activities of everyday life. For example sitting in a chair, holding a spoon and fork or drinking from a cup.

They carry out assessments to see if your child would benefit from using specialist equipment like adapted cups, buggies or chairs. They can also advise you on lifting and handling your child safely.


A paediatrician is a doctor who specialises in working with babies and children. They are often the first point of contact for families who find out their child has an impairment or medical condition.

Paediatricians may give you a diagnosis about your child's condition, answer any questions you may have and refer you to specialist services.

Paediatric neurologist

A paediatric neurologist is a doctor who specialises in how the brain works in very young children.


A physiotherapist is a health professional who specialises in physical and motor development. They can assess your child and develop a plan that might include helping your child control their head movement, sit, crawl or walk.

A physiotherapist may see your child at home or in other settings, like a nursery.

Portage home visitor

A portage home visitor is an educational professional who can come to the home of pre-school children with special educational needs and their families.

Portage home visitors can come from a range of professional backgrounds. They may be teachers, therapists, nursery nurses, health visitors or volunteers with relevant experience.

School nurse

A school nurse is a medical nurse, based in a school, who provides support for children's medical needs.

Social worker

A social worker is a professional who provides practical help and advice about counselling, transport, home help and other services. They are normally employed by the local council.

Social workers may also be able to help you with claiming benefits or getting equipment you need at home.

Special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO)

SENCOs are members of staff at a nursery, playgroup or school who co-ordinate special educational needs activities and services. They make sure that children who have special educational needs receive appropriate support.

Speech and language therapist

A speech and language therapist helps children with speech and language problems. They also offer advice to parents about developing communication that may be verbal (using speech) or non-verbal, using signs or other communication aids.

Some speech and language therapists specialise in feeding, eating or swallowing disorders.

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