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Welcome, we’re delighted that you’re thinking about paediatric neurodisability as a career – it is a fascinating and varied sub-specialty!

What does a paediatric neurodisability doctor do?

  • We work with children with disabilities, both visible (like cerebral palsy and Duchenne muscular dystrophy) and invisible (like autism, ADHD and learning disabilities), with a focus on promoting their participation and quality of life. 
  • These children require a strong multi-disciplinary approach to their management, therefore co-ordinating the team around the child is a key role of a neurodisability doctor, as well as identifying and managing the complex co-morbidities. 
  • A lot of our time is spent in outpatient clinics (often in special schools or community centres) and working with the multidisciplinary team. We sometimes see patients on the ward, and lots of us have interests in education, research and management. 

You might also hear the term ‘community paediatrician’ used. A community paediatrician is a doctor who has an interest in paediatric neurodisability, as well as safeguarding and public health. You probably don’t need to focus too much at this point about whether you want to be a community paediatrician or a neurodisability doctor, as they are quite similar. 

What makes a good paediatric neurodisability doctor?

  • As with all branches of paediatrics, but particularly as a neurodisability doctor, communication skills are absolutely key – with children, with families and with colleagues. 
  • In addition, our children are often very complex, so a thorough and holistic approach to their care is important. 
  • We also often work with very vulnerable children and families; compassion and a dedication to advocacy are vital.

What do people who specialise in paediatric neurodisability say about their careers?

The things that we enjoy about neurodisability as a career are:

  • The children and families that we work with are amazing, and it is great to feel that we make a difference to their lives. We get to know them really well and often are involved from when they are an infant or young child to when they are moving to adult services at age 18. 
  • Our workload is generally quite varied – in a day we can see everything from a 3 month old with Down syndrome, to a 4 year old with autism, and a 16 year old with cerebral palsy, all in different settings (clinic, special school, ward etc) and all with particular needs to consider.
  • There is the opportunity to work in a variety of settings and develop a range of different interests; some neurodisability paediatricians may work in tertiary setting and have specialist skills, such as tone and postural management and neurorehabilitation, and others may work in a local child development centre and see children with a wide variety of conditions.
  • Our colleagues are almost universally really nice people (!!), which makes for a fantastic team environment. It’s great to be able to work with such a wide range of people within the multidisciplinary team and it helps us to provide holistic care for the child and family, as well as being able to continually learn from each other. It can be a challenging job, but is very fulfilling with great support from colleagues.
  • As the speciality is largely outpatient based, working hours within speciality are generally 9-5, which makes it more family friendly than many specialities (although some consultant posts will require you to contribute to the child protection on call rota, acute paediatrics on call rota or sub-specialty out of hours work, such as palliative care).

Visit our Member Stories to hear more about why some of our colleagues chose neurodisability as a speciality.

How do I become a paediatric neurodisability doctor?

After your Foundation training years, you should apply for a paediatric training post, where you will spend the first 5 years of paediatric training (ST1-5) learning general paediatrics. This is likely to include posts in community paediatrics and neonates and you may have the opportunity to gain other sub-specialty experience, such as paediatric neurology, all of which are very relevant.

After this, you can apply for a ‘grid’ training post in Paediatric Neurodisability or Community Child Health, where you will spend the final 3 years of training (ST6-8) specialising in neurodisability. 

A typical training pathway looks like this:

What experiences should I seek out if I am interested in a career in neurodisability?

  • It would be a good idea to seek out special study modules in paediatrics during medical school, and a paediatric rotation during your Foundation years; these will help you get an idea of whether paediatric training is for you. 
    • While in these placements, it is likely that you will be spending a lot of time on the ward; seek out children and families with disabilities on the ward and speak to them about their journey so far. 
    • Let your supervisors know that you are interested in disability; they might be able to arrange for you to spend time with your local neurodisability or community team. They might also be able to get you involved in audits or quality improvement projects. 
    • Even while rotating through different Foundation specialties, make use of the opportunities available to build up your CV towards paediatrics and disability. For example, if you are on an adult admissions unit, you could audit whether the ‘carer’ status of admitted adults is being recorded and consider submitting an abstract for the BACD Annual Scientific meeting. 
    • Other relevant Foundation posts in adult specialties include GP, neurorehabilitation, neurology, palliative care and psychiatry – there are a lot of transferable skills and knowledge you can develop!
  • Charities for children with disabilities are often looking for medically trained volunteers to help with their events, which can be great fun – look at Caudwell Children, Make a Wish Foundation, Dreamflight, Over The Wall, and there will be also be local charities in your area - just have a Google.
  • Look at some of Disability Matters e-learning modules, which cover a range of highly relevant paediatric disability topics; there is a package of modules designed specifically for medical students. 
  • Join the BACD – the BACD is the UK’s only multidisciplinary organisation for those working in the field of childhood disability; benefits of joining include regular newsletters and emails to keep up to date, access to resources, discounts on BACD educational meetings and opportunities for meeting others who are passionate about children and young people with disabilities.
  • All of the local BACD regional representatives are happy to be contacted for further information about opportunities to gain neurodisability experience and to find out more about neurodisability. Find out if there are any projects that you can get involved with or any local study days you can attend.
  • Come to the annual BACD trainees’ day and chat to trainees about their training so far.  

Please get in touch!

The BACD has three trainee representatives, Eleanor Yule, Vivien Wong-Spracklen and Catherine Agar, who are very happy to answer your questions about paediatric training and paediatric neurodisability - please email [email protected]

British Academy of Childhood Disability is registered in England and Wales under charity number 1177868
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