Authored by Sara Hoen

Blue checkmark icon Medically reviewed by Kavya Rao MD.

What parents should know about Pediatric Neurology: A Neurologist’s guide to common conditions and treatments

July 31, 2023 | NeurologyPediatrics

Finding the best treatment plan for your child with a neurological condition can be challenging. To set your mind at ease, we sat down with Dr. Kavya Rao, a Pediatric Neurologist at Revere Health, who provided answers to the most commonly asked questions on the topic of child neurology.

What is child neurology?

“Child neurology is a specialty that cares for diseases or injuries of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles,” Dr. Rao explained.

A pediatric (or child) neurologist works specifically with infants, children, and adolescents. Typically, a pediatric neurologist’s role consists of examining, evaluating, diagnosing, and treating children with neurological disorders such as seizures, epilepsy, muscle issues, learning disabilities, and other developmental delays.

What is the difference between child neurology and adult neurology?

According to Dr. Rao, “Child neurology has overlap with adult neurology in that both children and adults can get neurological issues such as headaches or seizures. Child neurology differs from adult neurology in that causes and treatments can be different for children than they would be for adults.”

When should a parent take their child to see a pediatric neurologist?

There are many symptoms that may bring families to a child neurology clinic. Dr. Rao said common concerns of families in her clinic include but are not limited to:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Staring episodes (or “spacing out”)
  • Decline in school performance
  • Concern for learning difficulties
  • Concern for ADD/ADHD
  • Concern for autism, or movement concerns.
  • Movement concerns that may include muscle stiffness, weakness, or abnormal movements such as tics.

What conditions require care from a pediatric neurologist? What treatment options are most common?

“Pediatric migraines, pediatric seizures, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorder, ADD/ADHD, concussions, and movement concerns commonly benefit from having a neurologist as part of the care team,” Dr. Rao said.

Treatments are different for each patient, and I work with families individually to see what treatment means for each family. Much of the time, depending on the condition, lifestyle modifications, and therapies can help significantly. Depending on the condition, medications may be needed, so I walk families through the options and allow them time to decide.

What can a child expect during an appointment with a pediatric neurologist?

Since neurology is about the brain, spine, and muscles, I want to get to know my patient first and foremost,” Dr. Rao said. “I let them run around the exam room, walk down the hallways, and play with toys. I ask them about their favorite activities, and I ask them to solve questions and puzzles. Most younger patients want to know if there are any shots at this visit, and the answer is no!

Additionally, some neurologists will use an Electroencephalogram (EEG) to test for seizures, sleep apnea, and brain disorders. Although both tests are usually well tolerated and non-invasive, they may still cause discomfort or even fear in younger children, so make sure to discuss with your provider ways to keep your child as comfortable as possible during the procedure.

What can a parent expect during an appointment with a pediatric neurologist?

Dr. Rao explained that it is often hard for parents to sit back and let the patient (their child) take the lead during an appointment.

“If I ask a question, it is most helpful for me to hear what the patient has to say,” Dr. Rao said. “A patient may have cognitive differences and may not be able to speak in words, but they may make a ‘happy noise’ when asked a question that speaks volumes!”

After she hears from the child, she will encourage the parents to elaborate because perspectives from both sides are vital in making an appropriate diagnosis.

“A patient may describe their pre-seizure warning sign as ‘buzzy’, and a parent might describe it as ‘my teen stares off before the big seizure starts.’ Both descriptions are important to me.”

When Dr. Rao asks her patients to do something, such as take off their shoes, she likes to see how they handle those kinds of tasks on their own first before the parents get involved or assist. This helps her properly assess the child’s development.

Overall, Dr. Rao says her goal is to “make each patient and family feel comfortable and valued during their visit.”

Revere Health is proud to offer Pediatric Neurology services at our Farr West Pediatric Neurology Clinic. Our neurologist takes the time to listen and communicate clearly with each patient in an effort to better diagnose and treat diseases and disorders of the nervous system. Visit our website to learn more or to schedule an appointment for your child.

Zahra Nielsen

WRITTEN BY:

Zahra Nielsen

Zahra Nielsen currently serves as Revere Health’s Community Relations Specialist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University with the intention of working with at-risk communities, but she has since found a love for community engagement, volunteerism, and outreach. Since graduating, her career has taken her to non-profit organizations across the country. From Washington D.C, New York, and Salt Lake City, she has had the opportunity to work with notable organizations such as the National Council for Adoption, Volunteers of America, and United Way. After years of working in different areas of community engagement, Zahra has found her niche in writing. She hopes to pursue this creative form of outreach as a way of inspiring community members to be mindful of their well-being and the well-being of others. In her free time, Zahra likes to practice and teach yoga. She also enjoys live theatre, listening to music, and watching endless hours of quirky movies and TV shows with her husband.

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.