This month we continue to look at the professional specialties that could be part of an interdisciplinary team providing support to developmentally disabled individuals. Along with the Service Coordination role, described in May's article, the following are all service providers a developmentally disabled person could potentially utilize to receive services.

  • Habilitation Specialist – the person in this role could be assigned to a residential or day program. Their assistance is used to help develop an individual's basic learning, self help, communication and/or pre-vocational skills. Through assessment of a person's needs and strengths an individualized plan, with goals, will be developed that addresses the needs and maintains/optimizes their functioning level. The habilitation specialist will select appropriate training methods to implement the plan and guide/train staff who will assist the person to reach their programming goals.
  • Psychologist – administers and completes clinical evaluations such as, intelligence tests, functional and forensic evaluations and risk assessments. Psychologists are involved in the development and oversight of behavior management plans aimed at reducing or eliminating certain behaviors. Individual and family counseling can be provided if needed.
  • Registered Nurse – provides professional nursing services appropriate for each person. Services to individuals, families and/or staff could include:

    nursing interventions
    health teaching/counseling
    staff training
    preparation of reports
    maintaining infection control standards
    medication oversight
    monitoring of physician visits

  • Physical Therapist – treats individuals of all ages whose ability to move or perform activities is limited. Their goal is to prevent loss of mobility by providing services that develops, maintains or restores maximum movement and functional ability throughout a person's life. Utilizing a person's history, medical reports and physical exams, an individualized treatment plan is developed. Plans can include specific exercises, manual therapy, mechanical devices, such as traction, or assistive devices such as wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Occupational Therapist – assists people to develop, improve or maintain their ability to perform daily living or work skills. This can range from assistance with computer skills, dressing or eating/cooking activities. Treatments could include exercises for strength and dexterity, activities to improve visual acuity or adaptive equipment/aids to improve performance in certain activities.
  • Audiologist – provides diagnosis, treatment and monitoring to those with hearing loss or balance problems. They can make recommendations for options such as hearing aids, cochlear implants or referrals to other medical professionals.
  • Speech-Language Pathologist – assesses, diagnoses and treats speech/language, communication and swallowing disorders in children and adults. Treatments range from vocal exercises to utilization of various communication options, like a picture board.
  • Dietician – provides nutrition therapy and dietary consultations. Often with other health care professionals, develops a plan to meet individual requirements for diets and nourishment. Dieticians can advise and train on nutritious foods and their preparation. For those needing dietary modifications to address medical issues, like diabetes, dieticians can be very helpful.
  • Psychiatrist – specializes in the diagnosis of mental health disorders. They are medical doctors who prescribe medication as indicated by diagnosis. Although they can offer psychotherapy most will provide medical management only and refer to psychologists/other therapists for any necessary counseling.

The above list is certainly not all inclusive. The interdisciplinary team is a fluid entity where members come and go based on what a person requires at certain times in their lives.

The important aspect of any interdisciplinary team is to work well together, keep the individual/family informed at all times, especially of changes being made to plans or new concerns as they arise. The ultimate goal of the team is to direct the developmentally disabled person toward of greatest independence and quality of life.
New York State Department of Civil Service Web Site