PMSFUK - Phelan McDermid Syndrome Foundation UK


Different Types of Medical Terms and Therapies

Whenever a person has a chronic health problem they will encounter a wide range of people who say they can help. It can be confusing trying to understand what the various practitioners do. This brief article outlines both registered professionals and practitioners, which provide established, mainstream, complementary and alternative care.


All registered healthcare professionals are regulated by and registered with an agency which sets out a code of practice, standards, expectations and which can consider complaints against that professional. Some practitioners are not registered; they may provide alternative or complementary therapy in areas not covered by professional registration. Those not registered must still uphold a certain ethical code as those claiming to be “helpers”.


People diagnosed with Phelan-McDermid Syndrome will benefit from different types of therapies at various stages in their lives. Many parents find that early intervention is a big help in developing skills in their children. Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Music Therapy – some or all can benefit individuals with PMS.

Medical Terminology

Biomedical scientists Analyses specimens to provide data to help doctors (and other professionals) diagnose and treat disease.

Clinical scientists Oversees specialist tests for diagnosing and managing disease. They advise on tests, interpreting data and carry out research to understand diseases.

Dieticians Uses the science of nutrition to devise eating plans for patients to treat medical conditions. They promote good health by helping to facilitate a positive change in food choices.

Geneticist Looks at the genetic structure and assesses the impact of changes in structure, the possibility of passing a genetic problem from one generation to the next.

Health Visitors Health visitors help to promote health, offering health promotion and health education usually for children but also for other groups.

Neurology Assess and treat the function of the brain, nerves and brain/ nervous control of the body.

Nurses Registered in one (or more) of four areas: Adult health, Children’s Health, Learning Disability and Mental Health. Nurses can become specialists, prescribers, educators and case managers. They can provide direct care, manage care environments, and/or support people in the community, in their own homes, or in care environments.

Paramedics Specialist care and treatment to patients who are either acutely ill or injured. They can administer a range of drugs and carry out certain surgical techniques.

Paediatrics Care of children (usually under 18, but some classify “children” as under 14).

Pharmacists Working in the community, in hospitals and in group health environments, educate and support people to understand and to make good use of medications and treatments prescribed by themselves and other practitioners.

Physician An authorised practitioner of medicine, as one graduated from a college of medicine or osteopathy and licensed by the appropriate board; one who practices medicine as distinct from surgery. Doctors are regulated by the General Medical Council: Their site gives good information about expectations for the behaviour, conduct and skills of medical professionals.

Practitioner psychologists Attempt to understand the role of mental functions in individual and social behaviour, to improve individual and societal health and well being.

Rehabilitation Focused on helping people with a chronic problem that disrupts function to cope with and overcome the impact of their limitations or difficulties.


ABA Therapy – Applied behavior analysis (ABA) The application of behavior analysis that modifies human behaviors, especially as part of a learning or treatment process. Behavior analysts focus on the observable relationship of behavior to the environment to the exclusion of what they call “hypothetical constructs”. By functionally assessing the relationship between a targeted behavior and the environment, the methods of ABA can be used to change that behavior. Methods in applied behavior analysis range from validated intensive behavioral interventions—most notably utilised for children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to basic research which investigates the rules by which humans adapt and maintain behavior.

Arts therapists (Art, music or drama therapy) – encouraging people to express their feelings and emotions through art, such as painting and drawing, music or drama.

Hydrotherapy (acquatic physiotherapy) provides a warm, relaxed atmosphere for treating chronic and acute conditions. The water temperature of 34°C provides the optimum temperature for muscle relaxation. This helps to decrease pain, increase range of movement and increase muscle activity. The buoyancy of the water enables movement to be either assisted or resisted and allows for more fluid movements. The aim is to gain flexibility of joints, strengthen muscles and enhance core stability to restore or improve function.

Occupational therapists Uses specific activities to limit the effects of disability and promote independence in all aspects of daily life. Provides and advises on aids, adaptations and equipment to make things easier.

Physiotherapists Deal with human function and movement and help people to achieve their full physical potential. They use physical approaches (eg, activity, exercise and movement) to promote, maintain and restore wellbeing.

Play specialists Play is an important “activity of daily life” for children; play specialists work with other members of the care time to organise play, to provide play to meet developmental goals, to help children understand and master their feelings, to use play to prepare for therapeutic activities like theatre procedures, to understand a child’s feelings and needs expressed through play, and to ensure that children who are ill or disabled have normalised childhood activities like parties, group play and pretend. Play specialists don’t offer therapy- they support therapeutic activity.

Speech and language therapists (SALT) Assesses, treats and helps with speech, language and swallowing difficulties.


Local Child Development Team or Disabled Team Your local council can provide help if you have a disabled child, including: short break services, holiday play schemes, care at home, some aids and adaptations, financial help (eg money towards travel costs for hospital visits). Your council has a duty to provide these services under the Children Act 1989. Some are free of charge – the council might ask you to contribute towards others.

Social workers (HCPC registered in England) Profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. A social worker can talk to you about the needs of your family, including: health, social care and education. This is called a ‘needs assessment’ – the social worker will give you advice on what to do next. If you think your child may qualify, contact the social services team at your local council.

Complimentary and Alternative Therapies

Complementary therapies are those used in conjunction with other conventional therapies, whilst alternative therapies are those used instead of conventional therapies. Some therapies, like acupuncture, are provided both through specialist practitioners as well as other registered professionals (such as Physiotherapists) whilst some are only provided through specialist practitioners.

Acupuncture Using heat, electricity and direct needle penetration of energy points to treat pain, improve function and treat illness. Although not entirely accepted, there is evidence that acupuncture is useful to treat pain and to help heal musculoskeletal injuries.

Aromatherapy Use fragranced oils and resins to provoke the body’s own defences and systems to improve health and well being. These can be applied directly to the body or diffused into the air.

Chiropractor Practitioners manipulate joints, including the back and neck, to restore “equilibrium” and improve function, movement and pain.

Herbalism Herbalists use herbs and natural substances to improve health and well being.

Homeopathy Using minute quantities of substances to provoke the body’s own response to improve health and wellbeing.

Hypnotherapy Treat conditions such as pain, nightmares, sleep problems, etc.

Massage therapy Support and improve health and wellbeing, pain, relaxation and function.

Osteopathy Practitioners look to improving the structure and function of bone, muscles, ligaments and tendons as a foundation to health.

Whomever the professional or practitioner, it is essential that the premise “No care or decisions about me without me” underlies all care. NICE- the National Centre for Health and Care Excellence- sets out guidance and standards for care based on the best possible result for the patient as well as the economic arguments for or against treatment. NICE have set up groups combining expertise from the royal colleges, professional bodies and patient/carer organisations to develop guidance and information on which care is based; these include the National Collaborating Centre for Cancer, the National Clinical Guidelines Centre for Acute and Chronic Conditions, the National Collaborating Centre for Women and Children’s Health, and the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. See NICE on