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Roles of health professionals

Children and young people aged 0 – 25 and their parents and carers may talk to a wide range of health professionals to find support.

The different job roles and titles can become confusing, this page provides information on professionals who may come into contact with children and young people with SEND.

This isn't an extensive list and you may come across other professionals depending on your child or young person's need. If you would like to suggest an addition, please complete our feedback form. 

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist

Child and adolescent psychiatry is a specialty within psychiatry working with children and young people and their families. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who are experts in mental health. They specialise in diagnosing and treating behavioural and thought disorders. They also work with children and young people with psychosomatic disorders and the emotional and developmental consequences of physical illness and disability.

Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists are also responsible for the assessment and treatment of children and young people experiencing mental illness such as eating disorders, depression, anxiety and psychosis.

Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists offer a range of services for children and young people. Clinical psychologists work with children when there are concerns about their development, their behaviour, their mental health and their relationships.

Clinical psychologists can do different things to help such as: 

  • Assessments: neuropsychological, diagnostic, behaviour that challenges and mental health.
  • Formulation: a psychological way of understanding the child’s needs and how things have become difficult for them and/or their family.  This tells clinical psychologists what help is needed to improve things for the child. 
  • Interventions: this might be talking therapies, such as cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), attachment-based therapies, mental health interventions (such as for trauma, anxiety etc.), behaviour interventions, working with parents and working with others around the child’s needs.

Sometimes clinical psychologists work directly with the child but sometimes it is better to work with other people to help them to enable the child.  This might include nurses, psychiatrist, teachers, social workers, assistant psychologists, to support them in supporting children and young people.

Community nurse

Children’s community nurses provide care in a variety of settings in the community, including in the home and in educational settings.

The children’s community nurses provide support to families and children through training, advice and direct care for children with a range of nursing needs.

Community learning disability nurse

Children’s community learning disability nurses work with children, families and staff within settings eg schools to help manage behaviour, communication and mental health difficulties, using a variety of skills and techniques.

They work jointly with other professionals who are involved with the child to monitor and review the care needed

Designated Clinical Officers

The three CCGs in Suffolk have appointed Designated Clinical Officers (DCO) whose primary role is:

  • Providing advice to local authorities, schools and colleges regarding the health needs of children and young people who may have SEN or disabilities, including navigating the local health system.
  • Providing a contact for health providers so that appropriate notification can be given to the local authority of children under compulsory school age who they think may have SEN or disabilities.
  • Supporting schools with their duties under the ‘Supporting Pupils with Medical Conditions’ guidance.
  • The DCO is not routinely involved in assessments or planning for individuals, except in the course of their usual clinical practice, but would be responsible for ensuring that assessment, planning and health support is carried out by health providers.

To contact the DCO for Ipswich and East Suffolk CCG & West Suffolk CCG, email

To contact the DCO for Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, email

The Film The Designated Medical Officer/ Designated Clinical Officer for SEND role in 2019


Dietitians are qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems.

Family support worker

Family support workers work directly with children and families under the direction of nurses and psychologists to implement agreed plans.

They create and build resource libraries and work with children, young people and families to develop social stories/resource making skills for themselves as well as undertake standardised assessments of children and young people in school and home settings.

Health visitor

Health visitors give help, advice and practical support to families about the care of children under five. This may include sleep patterns, feeding, behaviour and safety. The health visitor will check that the child is growing and developing as expected.  Where a child has additional needs, they may be part of a team of professionals working to support the child and family.

If you have any concerns about your child’s development aged 0-5, you should speak to a health visitor. If you do not have a named health visitor, you can request one or speak to your general practitioner (GP).

Occupational therapist

Occupational therapists aim to help children and young achieve their full potential in their ability to play, learn and look after themselves.  The aim is to improve a child or young person’s level of independence and quality of life and support families and other carers who are involved with these children and young people.

They can work with a variety of children with special educational needs, disability and complex health difficulties, and work in the setting that is most appropriate for the child, young person or their family/carers, including home, clinic, education setting or respite.

Occupational therapists may be employed by health, social services or charities and the commissioned service may vary depending on where you live.


A paediatrician is a specialist doctor who looks after babies and children. They are often involved, particularly early on, when there are concerns a child may have an impairment or disability.

A paediatrician is able to refer for further medical investigations and diagnosis. They are able to direct children to other paediatric specialists eg therapists, psychologists and specialist nursing services as needed.

Paediatricians can work a variety of places such as hospitals, community clinics and special schools.


Children’s physiotherapists provide specialist assessment and intervention to children and young people who have a range of conditions involving physical and movement difficulties which limit their mobility, function, and/or independence.

They work in a range of locations, including clinics, school and pre-school settings, homes, and respite or voluntary care settings.

Children’s physiotherapists may be employed by NHS, local authority, private or charitable sector providers. 

They work with parents and professionals, aiming to help children and young people to reach their physical potential, to achieve improved independence and quality of life.

School nurse

The school nursing team provides school nursing services to all school age children and their families from school entry to sixteen years old.  Services are provided in all maintained mainstream schools.

Children and young people can be seen in a variety of settings, for example school, health clinics or at home. The team is comprised of qualified school nurses, community staff nurses, and support workers. This service follows on from the services provided by the health visiting teams to children under five.

School nurses provide a variety of services such as providing health and sex education within schools, carrying out developmental screening, advising on individual health issues, undertaking health interviews and administering immunisation programmes.

Specialist children's continence nurse

The specialist children’s continence nurse works with children and young people who are are experiencing difficulties with their bladder and/or bowel. The aim is to help children and young people to achieve continence where possible, to support them to achieve a good quality of life and to avoid unnecessary admissions to hospital. Where full continence is unlikely to be achieved, they aim to support children and families to manage their condition to enable them to access the opportunities available to them.

They work with all children and young people including those with special educational needs, disability and complex health difficulties. They deliver care mainly in the clinic setting but where appropriate will support children and young people in a variety of settings such as home or school.

Speech & language therapist

Speech and Language Therapists work with children and young people with a range of speech, language and communication needs which can include:

  • unclear speech
  • slow or unusual development of spoken language
  • little or no spoken language
  • difficulties with chewing or eating and drinking
  • difficulties in understanding what people say
  • stammered (or stuttered) speech
  • voice problems
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