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Pediatric Developmental and Behavioral Medicine

Olson Huff Center

At the Olson Huff Center, we provide diagnostic services, medical treatments, therapy and behavioral services for infants, children and adolescents who have difficulties with development, behavior and learning. We also provide support and guidance for families and caregivers of children with special needs. The center was established by Dr. Olson Huff in the late 1980s and was named the Olson Huff Center in 1995. Under the leadership of Dr. Adrian Sandler since 1994, the center has grown to become the largest clinical program of its kind in North Carolina.


Our patients include children with:

  • Fetal alcohol spectrum
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Learning difficulties/LD
  • Autism spectrum /Asperger syndrome
  • Sensory processing problems
  • Auditory processing/ hearing impairment
  • Sleep problems
  • Birth defects/congenital anomalies/torticollis
  • Social skills/peer problems
  • Cerebral palsy and other neurological disabilities
  • Speech and language impairments
  • Developmental delay/intellectual disabilities
  • Spina bifida
  • Down syndrome
  • Tic disorders/Tourette syndrome
  • Dyspraxia/motor coordination delays
  • Toileting issues/enuresis and encopresis
  • Feeding/swallowing issues and failure to thrive
  • Traumatic brain injury


Our staff includes experienced professionals from different disciplines working together as a team to provide coordinated family-centered care:

  • Developmental-Behavioral Pediatricians
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Pediatric Psychologists
  • Clinical Social Workers/Child and Family Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Speech Therapists
  • Audiologist

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) is a subspecialty of pediatrics that focuses on evaluation and care of children and adolescents with developmental delay, disabilities, learning and attention disorders, and behavior problems. DBP specialists are trained to consider both the medical and psychosocial aspects of child and adolescent development. We provide a gateway to understanding the broad service needs – medical, educational, social and emotional - for children with developmental and behavioral challenges and their families.

Pediatric Psychology

Psychologists are specialists who have completed graduate training (MA or PhD) and who assess, diagnose and treat behavioral, developmental, learning and emotional problems, using nonmedical interventions that help people to change their behaviors, thoughts and feelings to improve well-being. We assess for autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, learning disorders and ADHD, and make recommendations for how to support the child at home, at school and in the community. We share a commitment to collaboration with medical and allied-health disciplines in clinical work, research, education and advocacy to improve the health and well-being of children and their families.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have received additional education, earning a master’s degree or higher. APRNs must pass a national certification examination and be licensed to practice by a State Board of Nursing. We provide comprehensive health services, including health histories and physical examinations, interpretation of tests, developmental assessments, evaluation and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses and disabilities, medication management, patient/family education, coordination of care and counseling for health problems.

Clinical Social Workers/Child and Family Therapy

Licensed clinical social workers (LCSWs) have a Master of Social Work degree, which includes education regarding assessment and evidence-based treatment of behavioral health disorders. LCSWs use a holistic approach regarding the individual within a family, community and social environment. LCSWs are board certified and licensed within the state where they practice. We provide behavioral health services, including guidance and information, child and family therapy, cognitive behavior therapy and family support services. Our services are typically brief (6-8 sessions), solution-oriented approaches, appropriate for children with developmental disorders. We do not provide comprehensive community-based mental health services for children without disabilities whose primary problem is psychiatric and who require more intensive services.


At the Olson Huff Center, we:

  • Are totally committed to providing quality care for children with special needs
  • Practice family-centered care, partnering with the family and treating the whole child
  • Take the time to coordinate care for children with complex problems
  • Consider biological, emotional and environmental factors in a child’s development
  • Emphasize a child’s strengths and assets to unlock potential
  • Work closely with Huff Center Therapies for integrated pediatric rehabilitation services
  • Work closely with primary care doctors, specialists, schools and other agencies


Appointments for developmental/behavioral services at Mission Children’s Hospital are by referral only. Please talk to your doctor about a referral.

Olson Huff Center Referral Form


Medical Consultations and Follow-Up Care

The Olson Huff Center takes referrals of children with developmental and behavioral problems from primary care. Initial consultations are provided by developmental-behavioral pediatricians and by nurse practitioners. We gather information – from parents, teachers and primary care doctors - prior to the evaluation. Our in-depth consultation, usually around 90 minutes, includes review of medical information, physical examination, opportunities for informal play and observation, and standardized testing of the child. This process allows accurate diagnosis and treatment planning. We have access to state-of-the-art diagnostic services, such as imaging, EEG, laboratory and other pediatric subspecialty consultation. Our follow-up care includes expert management and monitoring of medications. Our goal is to provide guidance and support for parents and caregivers to create the most effective, individualized care plan designed to help your child reach his or her fullest potential in life. 

Psychology Consultations

Psychology consultations at the Olson Huff Center may begin with diagnostic testing and detailed behavioral assessment. Understanding the learning and processing style of the individual can be useful in providing individualized intervention strategies, building on the strengths of the child and the family. Psychological testing may include testing of cognitive abilities, adaptive behavior, learning ability, social skills, executive functions, motivation, language processing and emotional state. We offer behavior management strategies, working with children and their parents/family to modify ineffective routines and to learn new skills.

Child and Family Therapy

Child and family therapy empowers parents or caregivers to understand challenging behavior and to develop strategies for teaching your child more adaptive behavior. Parents are an integral part of the care we provide and can expect meaningful gains in their child's development. We follow a family-systems approach, focusing on treatment of anxiety disorders, OCD and tic disorders, sleep problems, depression, attachment issues and oppositional behavior, and providing:

  • Family-centered psychotherapy
  • Integrated and collaborative care
  • Evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), PCIT and EMDR
  • PLAY Project (DIR/”Floortime” training)

Developmental Therapies (Occupational, Physical and Speech Therapy)

Audiology Services


Autism Program

Our Autism Program is focused on early diagnosis and intervention. Our evaluation process may include careful observation, interaction and play with the child, and the use of standardized instruments including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS). Our treatment approach is individualized, including:

  • Behavioral analysis and therapy
  • Structured teaching approaches
  • On-site developmental therapies, including:
  • Supportive family counseling
  • PLAY Project (DIR/”Floortime” training)
  • Expert management of medications
    We also have a fully integrated program with related pediatric specialties at Mission, including neurology, genetics, dentistry, endocrinology, pediatric GI and nutrition.

Mission Hospital is proud to be the local provider of the Family Support Network (FSN) developed by the University of North Carolina. FSN creates connections among families of children with special needs. Through FSN, parents receive emotional support, share practical tips, obtain valuable information and have the opportunity to participate in workshops.

Complex ADHD Program

Children with ADHD are not all the same. Fifty percent of children with ADHD have ADHD plus other challenges and diagnoses that may make their condition more complex and difficult to manage. Children with complex ADHD may need specialized care. The Olson Huff Center has extensive experience in caring for children with associated learning disabilities, developmental disorders, neurological conditions and emotional problems. Our specialists conduct thorough diagnostic evaluation and discuss the findings with child and family. We work closely with the primary care doctor, and we refer most children back to their primary care doctor when the child is stable and doing well in school and at home.

Psychopharmacology Consultations

Children who have an established diagnosis may be struggling with emotional or behavioral difficulties that may benefit from medication management. Our developmental-behavioral pediatrics specialists have extensive experience in pediatric psychopharmacology, especially for children with developmental disorders such as autism or intellectual disability. Our approach is evidence-based, conservative and family-centered. In order to most efficiently evaluate the child and make treatment recommendations, it is very helpful to have an opportunity to review the relevant medical records from previous doctors who conducted evaluations or who were managing medications.

Cerebral Palsy Clinic

Cerebral palsy (CP) describes a group of permanent disorders of the development of movement and posture, causing activity limitations, caused by disturbances that occurred in the developing fetal or infant brain. Mission Children’s Hospital has a long history of serving children with CP and other neuromuscular conditions. Our CP clinic provides an array of specialized, integrated services in a multidisciplinary clinic setting. Children are seen by a pediatric orthopedist, a physical therapist, an orthotics (bracing) specialist and a developmental pediatrician. Other disciplines including nutritionist, seating specialist and assistive technology specialist may be involved as needed. Children with CP and neuromuscular conditions may be followed periodically for orthopedic care, pain management, hip surveillance, bracing and equipment needs, physical therapy consultation, pediatric radiology and laboratory services, nutrition and growth problems, and spasticity management (including oral agents and Botox). The clinic may also assist with care of feeding and swallowing problems, osteoporosis prevention, bladder/bowel care, assistive technology, case management and family support services

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Clinic

Feeding and Swallowing Program

Constraint-Induced Motor Therapy (for hemiplegic CP)

Neuro-Developmental Follow-Up Program (NICU follow-up)

Olson Huff Center Research

Olson Huff Center is engaged in clinical research. We are currently investigating potential biomarkers of metabolism that may help to distinguish children with autism from those with other developmental disorders. We are also engaged in the development of clinical tools to measure functional outcomes in children with developmental and/or behavioral problems. We are committed to knowledge translation, and our busy clinics provide ideal opportunities for clinical research that has the potential to lead to improvements in quality and outcomes of care.

For questions about our Developmental and Behavioral services please call 828-213-1740.